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Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett is healing from the tragic loss of his 2-year-old child, Arrayah.
Speaking about the offseason incident on Monday, Barrett shared the dread of undergoing a sad loss of a child while returning to NFL action and the foundation he’s starting to commemorate Arrayah.
Bucs Vet Speaks On Offseason Tragedy
The loss of Arrayah compounded a difficult year for Barrett, which also included suffering a season-ending injury.
“This is a daily battle. Tough battle,” said Barrett, speaking with ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “Today I felt it heavier today than I did the last couple days.”
Shaq and Jordanna have been mourning the loss of Arrayah since April. The toddler accidentally drowned in the family’s pool in South Florida.
“Her smile — I just miss her so much. Her energy, just like putting her to bed every night, reading stories,” Barrett added. “She just brought so much brightness and wholeness and completeness to our lives. And we most definitely have a big, big, big, big, big hole in our hearts and our lives that we won’t be able to fill …”
Shaq Barrett Turns Tragedy Into Charity
Barrett shared that his shortened season in 2022 allowed him to spend more time with Arrayah before she passed. He suffered a torn Achilles tendon injury in Week 8 of last season.
“I’m not happy I got hurt, but I’m happy that I was able to spend all that extra time well from being hurt last year,” Barrett admitted. “So it, like, that was a hindsight, I’m looking back, I’m glad I was able to have that extra time with her so I could have more bonding time and experiences with her.”
The Barrett family — Shaq, Jordanna and their three children — is welcoming a new member. In July, the family announced that Jordanna is expecting, adding that Arrayah’s memory will long be a part of the pregnancy.
Shaq is also starting a foundation “Arrayah Hope,” to provide free swimming lessons to children in South Florida.
Barrett provided unique insight on grieving as an NFL player:
“I feel like we doing the best we can in this situation. I ain’t saying we doing perfect, but we doing I think the best we can is just, just being honest with our emotions, with each other, with our family and our friends, everybody that’s supporting us. And not like being afraid to be weak from time to time … and not even weak — it’s showing emotions.
“People have a stigma [of] being ‘weak’ as showing emotions, but that’s not weak — it’s just having like emotions and just being in the moment and expressing how you feel. So we do that and we strong together, we cry together, laugh together — like everything we do together and that’s what’s helping us stay close together and come closer together.”