Luke Bryan on What It’s Like Raising Late Sister’s 3 Kids Together With His Own

May 7, 2019 Updated: May 7, 2019

Country singer Luke Bryan’s life changed forever back in 2014 after his brother-in-law, Ben, passed away in a tragic car accident. In the years that have followed, Luke has opened up about the huge change to his family dynamic as a result, the “social experiment” that has both complicated and enriched his life.

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Ben’s death was not the first to ravage the family at large. Seven years previously, Bryan had also lost his sister (and Ben’s wife), Kelly.

“They never determined what happened [to Kelly],” Luke told People in 2013. Kelly passed away from unknown causes in 2007 while she was caring for her son at home, then just a toddler. After losing his wife, Ben raised their son, Til, and the couple’s two daughters, Kris and Jordan, on his own.

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When the children were dealt the second unimaginable blow of losing their father in 2014, Til was 16 years old, Kris was 19, and Jordan was 22. Luke and his wife, Caroline, took their nephew and two nieces under their wing immediately. Til, being the youngest, moved into the Bryans’ family home in Nashville.

“I woke up one day and I’m raising a teen,” Luke exclaimed. “We never thought twice about it,” Caroline added, speaking candidly to ABC News in 2017. Luke and his college sweetheart have been married since 2006 and have two children of their own: Thomas, aged 11, and Tatum, aged 8.

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“You know, it was never something that he and I had to sit down and talk about,” Caroline continued. “It’s a challenge,” Luke added, alluding to the major adjustment that the family has had to make, both domestically and psychologically. “I have to be that parent role,” the singer explained, referencing the delicate balancing act involved in raising teenagers, “where if [Til] does something, he needs to get in trouble.”

“But I want to be a friend to him, too.”

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Diligent parents, Luke and Caroline are careful to delimit distractions in the home so that Kelly and Ben’s son stands the best chance of success in his academic career despite the family’s tragedy. “We’re having to watch grades and watch Instagram and Snapchat,” Luke told People, a year after he and his wife took Til into their family home. “Obviously, my nieces and nephew, they didn’t ask for this.”

There have been numerous unforeseen benefits to the blended family that has risen from dire circumstances, however, one of which is the influence that Til has had upon Luke’s younger sons. They get to look up to him as a role model; they fish together, play board games, and even play a peripheral role in Luke’s country music career. Luke featured his two sons and his nephew in the music video for “What Makes You Country” in 2017.

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Speaking to ABC, Luke opened up about the complicated nature of finding peace and joy after the devastation of losing family members. “Maybe we’ll be a positive inspiration for people that had these things happen to ’em,” he offered. “You just have to plow on and play the hand that’s dealt.”

The singer’s priorities remain firmly attached to what is best for the young people under his care. Speaking to Billboard, Luke summed up the Bryans’ position with relatable clarity: “You don’t want to sound like you love having them so much that you’re glad it’s the situation,” he explained, “but we’re honored to be doing what we feel was the right thing.”

“I just hang on to the positive.”

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