Show Them Some Grace

Image of a Mickey Mouse shaped power line pole in Orlando, Florida.


Updated: Since originally publishing this post on this website it has been posted on the Huffington Post Parents page as well as several other sites. All content originated here at The Everyday Mom Life.

disney alligator attack

The news broke today that a little boy at the Grand Floridian Resort in Walt Disney World was playing in the shallows of a lagoon and dragged away by an alligator. According to the reports, the said to be 2-year-old was splashing around at the water’s edge in about one foot of water where a no swimming sign was posted. The alligator grabbed a hold of him and he was gone. They have yet to find him, or find what’s left of him. (Updated: He has been found.)

Let the parenting judgement begin. We all know it’s coming from people who hide behind computers in the safety of their homes.

You would have done it better, right? You wouldn’t have ignored the signs. You would not let him splash around in the water on a hot night. You would have been there next to him. You would have killed that alligator with your bare hands. You wouldn’t have let go.

I don’t know exactly what these parents are going through, but as the death date/birthday of my son approaches this weekend, I have a good idea about how they are going to feel now.

In the last 12 hours, these parents have lost everything in the happiest place on Earth. It’s a place where dreams come true and the last place in the world you expect nightmares to happen. A place where you are served pancakes in the shape of a mouse, princesses are close enough to touch and even adults believe that magic really exists, even if it’s just in the eyes of their children as they witness the spectacle that is Disney.

These parents are destroyed. They are second guessing every decision that lead up to this, every decision that has occurred since this. They have lost everything.

In the days ahead, the internet will judge them. The internet will judge the actions of the authorities, who are now killing every alligator they find in the lake, just to find a piece of this boy.

When I lost my son I didn’t have to deal with the judgement from anyone but myself, and along with the loss that was almost too much to bare. So before you pull out your pitch forks to hunt either these parents or these authorities, put yourselves in their weary shoes and show them some grace.

The parents will never be the same again. As a mother, just the idea of losing one of my children makes tears well up in my eyes and, if I let it, brings uncontrollable sobs. Just the idea. Can you image if that was an actual reality? Can you image the decisions you would have to make as a parent in the next few days?

They, together with authorities, will need to determine when the search concludes. How do you stop searching for your child? That decision seems unfathomable to me.

They will need to determine what to do with the body, if they even get one. I’ve made the decision and you are never prepared for the thought of that, no matter the question.

They will need to decide what goes on his headstone. They will need to decide what type of services they hold. They will need to figure out what is said to their family members. They will need to figure out how to say goodbye and they will need to figure out how to live again – broken.

They will never be who they once were. Their marriage might never recover from this. Losing a child is one of the hardest trials a marriage will ever face and there is a very good chance that after losing their son, they will lose each other too.

There is plenty of blame to go around and no one to shoulder all of it because the weight is crushing.

In the moment that it takes a split second for life to go wrong, for an accident to happen, life changes forever.

The fact of the matter is, life can be cut short for anyone. You wouldn’t have allowed your child to do this you say. You would have obeyed the signs. Because no parent has ever let their child swim in a place with “No Swimming” signs, or ice skate on a pond that says, “No Skating,” or watched as their child drove away in a car or boarded an airplane or taken their child to see the gorillas at the zoo?

In a world where there are so many things you cannot control, including all the actions and decisions your children make in life, you still would have done it better, right?

As these parents mourn and the search continues in the next couple of days, take a step back before you lash out at them. Remember that you cannot control all that goes on in life, especially when animals are involved. Remember to show compassion for their loss and the decisions to come. Remember to hug your kids a little harder, kiss them good night and love them as much as you can.

One day, it could be your child in a tragic accident and the last thing you will need are other parents telling you how they would have done better. Because even when you think you have lost it all, it’s amazing what other people can still take from you.



  1. I love this. I have no idea what the parents are going through and it was just one of those completely random situations that could have happened to anyone.

  2. Such a sad story to hear waking up this morning… and my heart goes out to the family. Can you imagine? I mean… it was a fun, cheerful moment and then that happened. So heartbreaking…
    Karen |

  3. A timely post. I’m sorry for your loss. I haven’t lost a child, but my mother did, my youngest brother died at three. I watched her suffer then and still now, almost 40 years later. You are right, they will second guess every choice they ever made. The decisions they have to make now will break them. How do we make the internet a safer place? When we will learn compassion?

  4. My heart breaks for them and for you as you have also lost a child. Your words are so profound and true…God Bless You for your insight and kindness.

  5. Very nicely written Rachel. This is one of those kind of things that is the worst that could ever happen to anyone. And yes, they and their families and friends will be dealing with grief for a long time to come.
    I can only hope and pray for them and hope they have faith in God to let Him wrap his arms around them in comfort and peace for the rest of their days.

  6. I just got done saying this to my husband. We should be thinking and praying for this family. The pain the are going through and all be going through is unimaginable. Instead of tearing each other down why can’t we lift each other up.

  7. This story is freaking me out because I live in an area where alligators in the water is normal. There are at least 5 small ponds in our neighborhood and alligators are in them and kids are fishing all the time. I was actually thinking last week about what age I would start to let my kids walk to the end of the street to fish by themselves….now it will be several years longer. I just can’t imagine this families loss or yours….lots of hugs.

  8. Very well said, and I am sorry for your loss too. I can’g imagine the nightmare they endured and at the end of it their child is gone. They deserve some breathing room while they grieve.

  9. Thank you for writing this. I imagine that it was difficult cor you to do as the anniversary of your own loss approaches. I was horrified hen I heard the news. I cannot imagine anything worse that seeing this happen to your child and not be able to do anything about it. Until I read this, it never occurred to me that anyone would blame (ok, lets be rea, attack) the parents. But you are right. There are so many self righteous people out there that would do just that. I tote a fairly long post on Facebook myself after the zoo incident because I was appalled at the attacks on the mother. I said that any parent who says that they never took their eyes off their young child long enough for something horrible to happen is, at minimum, lying to themselves. Those of us who have not experienced a traumatic loss need to count our blessings that our momentary lapses didn’t result in tragedy instead of attacking a parent who is already blaming herself. I am sorry for loss and hope that you have a support system that helps you through the upcoming anniversary.

  10. My heart breaks for what the family is going through. It is easy to judge if you are from Florida and know the risk, but this family was from up north. It probably didn’t occur to them at all that it was even a possibility of this happening.

    So sorry for your loss.

  11. I am so heartbroken for these parents, as well, and I can’t stop thinking of this story. I’ve had incidents with both my children that could have turned tragic, and I recognize this readily and replay those moments when I hear of things like this. I can’t help wondering why this is even national news. This family’s tragedy is devastating to them and those who know them, but it was a clear accident and there is no lesson to be learned for the greater public, nor is our help needed to apprehend the perpetrators. We wouldn’t need to plead for grace for these poor people if their personal tragedy, which is, in a practical sense, none of our business, were not being offered up for broad consumption and judgment. This is a heart rending story, and there but for the grace of God go all of us.

    • A decade ago or two decades ago, this probably still would have been national news since it happened at Disney. However, the internet has certainly changed life and parenting from what it once was.

  12. Thank you for a beautifully worded essay on compassion and loss. This should be mandatory reading for everyone currently judging that family’s decisions. I’ve been sending the link out to family and friends to read–you have made a difference to many people today…

    God Bless.

  13. It was such a tragic event that occurred. We love Disney, but it isn’t a place of safety like everybody makes it out to be. We all need to support the family and send love, not point fingers.

  14. I’m sorry for your loss. I think that I was and am in shock over the whole alligator attack. It seems a bit unreal, and I can’t imagine anyone not being compassionate in a situation like this.

  15. It’s such a sad story! Who would of ever thought something like that would happen at Disney? As someone who lived in the area for years and year before moving to NY, Orlando is definitely having one lousy week.

  16. I’m not gonna lie, until reading this I’m one of those people . I would say how they shouldn’t have done that but the truth is, what they should or shouldn’t have done isn’t what’s important anymore . I couldn’t even imagine losing my daughter in a crazy way like that then having people bash my parenting skills . It’s already hard enough they lost their son & already feel like horrible parents . People constantly judging them will only make them feel more worthless.. I do have a question though… Why the f does Disney have a pond/lake, whatever, with alligators in it at Disney?? There’s thousands of kids running around there DAILY ! I’m surprised something like this didn’t happen sooner ! Disney should be charged in my opinion .

  17. This incident was tragic and so sad for the family…We need to show them love and support…Pray for this family.

  18. I so agree with you. I can easily see myself thinking it was perfectly safe to wade in the water. I’m sure most of us have made very similar decisions in different settings and by the grace of God or whatever luck you want to call it, nothing bad happened. Total freak accident – we live among dangerous animals. We’ve separated ourselves from them, so we don’t stop to think too often about the fact that we are totally vulnerable. We’re not the top of the food chain. This is nature and it’s not someone’s fault. It’s just the most nightmarish horrendous unbelievably tragic accident. I keep playing over and over in my mind what it must have been like and what it’s like for them now. It’s almost too crushing to bear. Thank you for writing about it with such heart.

  19. Thank you for putting this sentiment in words. I had to get up and walk out of my office yesterday because I was so disgusted with someone passing judgement. I just didn’t know what to say at the time. I wish I would have read this before that happened.

  20. I completely agree – grace is needed in this situation. This was such a freaky accident to happen. When I heard about it, my heart broke for the poor parents and the sibling of the little boy.

  21. I agree. None of us were there, none of us knows what it is like for them in the seconds it happened and the long days that have followed. No matter what happened, a family has been changed forever and we need to respect that.


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