Susan Klebold Speaks, Part 1

A few weeks ago, I heard about an interview with Susan Klebold in the November 2009 issue of O Magazine. If you read my earlier post on this subject, you’ll know that I had an opinion on this article before I read it. I pointed out that Dylan Klebold is the one who killed the people at Columbine as well as himself. Susan Klebold is not a murderer. She is, however, the family member of someone who had a mental illness. Because it is clear to me that her son was mentally ill. I think we can safely assume that anyone who commits such terrible acts is mentally ill. Depressed for sure, and perhaps other illnesses as well.

I was initially apalled by some of the reactions to this interview. People commenting on the initial AP story showed no mercy, and oftentimes just downright cruelty. And this was before the article was printed!

I’ve read it for myself now. I initially was under the impression that the article was an interview with Susan Klebold, but she actually wrote it herself. I commend her for the courage to do such a thing, given that the comments I saw probably only scratched the surface of what she’s been through. Indeed, in the first part of this article, she talks about this very subject: “I was widely viewed as a perpetrator or at least an accomplice since I was the person who had raised a ‘monster.'”

This comment struck me as a central issue facing families of the mentally ill. It is, perhaps, elevated by the fact that Susan was Dylan’s mother, and parents are viewed as being responsible for their children’s behavior in our society. It is also central to the guilt so common in families of the mentally ill — we often mistakenly believe that we have some sort of control over our loved one’s thoughts or behavior.

Let me make this point clear. We can influence other people. But no one can CONTROL someone else’s THOUGHTS or BEHAVIOR. Anyone hanging around with a toddler can testify that they wish they could. But it is impossible. We are born with free will.

Yet we often hear the same question after any tragedy associated with the mentally ill: “Why didn’t someone DO something about it?”

Let’s stop for a moment and consider what it must be like to be Susan Klebold. How many times must she have been asked this question? How many times must she have asked herself this question? Really, does anyone think that if she KNEW what her son was going to do, that she WOULD NOT have done everything in her power to stop it? That she wouldn’t have disabled his car, searched his room, called the police or followed him to school that day, hanging on his pants legs?

I think any survivor of suicide would agree that they would have done anything to stop the tragedy IF ONLY THEY HAD KNOWN. But they didn’t. Suicidal people don’t send out memos with their planned time and method. The fact that she didn’t know, that she didn’t see the signs is completely believable to me. The fact that a teenage boy did not share his most desperate internal pain with his parents is also completely believable to me.

Yet Susan Klebold does not let herself off that easily. She admits that “I mistrusted everything — especially my own judgment.” Not to mention, “It was impossible to believe that someone I had raised could cause so much suffering.”

Wow. I understand that. How difficult was it for me to believe that my mother could commit suicide with her two teenage children in the same house. Did she not understand the pain she would be bringing into our lives?

No. She did not. It doesn’t take a Columbine-sized tragedy to feel the pain of loving someone who is mentally ill. Susan Klebold, unfortunately, has to deal with it on a national level, given the media attention focused on the tragedy surrounding her son, his friend and their actions. I see many parallels between her experiences and the families of the 33,000 other Americans who commit suicide every year.

More on this subject to come…

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2 thoughts on “Susan Klebold Speaks, Part 1

  1. Pingback: Susan Klebold Speaks, Part II « Families of the Mentally Ill

  2. (I hope I don’t offend anynoe by posting this link.)While I agree that there are definitely mental health issues, I came a post that showed what the shooter posted online. (Warning: some explicit content. They’ve asterisked out the worst of it, but it is still not something I would want my kids to read.)From his comments, it looks like psychological abuse was a factor and possible even sexual abuse and/or gender confusion. The families rejection of modern medicine didn’t help either. I’m playing armchair psychologist here, but I’m guessing he had OCD issues and might even have been schizophrenic. While I don’t believe in unnecessarily psychiatric medications, a good psych evaluation could have made a difference.I agree with Steve that his family took an “imbalanced approach to homeschooling.” I would expand that and say they took an imbalance approach to life. There is a theory in psychology that all behavior boils down to a combination of two things: fear and love. From his own comments, it seems that fear was all that Murray knew.In his own words:I remember as a child laying awake at night, terrified that I was going to “get left behind” for some childish bad thing I’d done or thought or some mistake I’d done. That was around age 8-12 and I would continue to have similar fear through my teenage years. I remember being terrified around year 2000 and always worried about this…”antichrist” who was going to somehow do all these terrible things to people who weren’t “born again” AND had not lost their salvation/committed some sin. I’d lay awake at night and be terrified during the day asking over and over “what if I commit a sin, and don’t have time to confess and ask God forgiveness and repent and get…left behind?!” “what if I’m in some sin that I don’t even recognize and I get……left behind?” “what if I’m watching something on TV that’s somehow a “sin” and Jesus returns and I get……left behind?” “what if I commit the unpardonable sin and get….left behind?”Some days I’d even lay awake worrying that I had dropped a few cents while placing my 10% tithes into the offering plate or that I had miscalculated my tithes and….something bad would happen……..It is easy for children to get confused about things they hear at church. For example when I was about 5 or 6, I would worry that Jesus would come again will I was in the bathroom. So, I would get off the potty really fast. I wasn’t afraid that Jesus would be mad, just that I would be embarrassed.But Murray’s comments are more than just a confused child. This is a terrified child who wasn’t taught about a loving God. If all I had know as a child was a Vengeful God, I wouldn’t believe in Him either.

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