Saturday, May 4, 2019

Review: A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy

A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bravo, Sue Klebold! This book was a huge undertaking. She did so many things right by writing this book. Sue Klebold’s son, Dylan, was one of the two boys that carried out a horrific school shooting in Columbine, Colorado. The book begins at the time the news broke that there was a school shooting. She began praying for her son’s safety. As she became aware of his culpability, she felt compelled to pray for his death.

The book is not about the Columbine tragedy, although that is a piece of the story. This is Sue Klebold’s journey. This is her own reckoning of what she could have or should have done differently to prevent the Columbine tragedy. She shared some amazing insights that she had afterward and with incredible candor and honesty, opens herself to those who want to use her and Tom’s parenting as a scapegoat. As a mother of grown and teenage children, I can not agree with her more. As a school counselor with 29 years of experience, I say, “Amen!” The child you know at home may not reflect the child that interacts at school. And neither of those children necessarily reflect the child in his or her brain.

Dylan was the second son of Tom and Sue Klebold. They were a typical upper middle class family that practiced both Christianity and honored Sue’s Jewish heritage. They attended baseball games together, watched movies together, and hung out with one another. Dylan was not a social recluse. He had a group of friends. He and Eric Harris were part of this friend group. Nobody had any idea what they had planned. They did not know the degree of different brain sicknesses these boys were carrying.

While never downplaying nor excusing her son’s behavior, her journey includes 6 months of simple survival while the media vilified the parents. She seemed to be in a state of denial of his role during this time. She didn’t know what he had done and assumed the other shooter had coerced him. Although Sue is careful to not tell the other boy’s story, the reader can infer that he was volatile and outwardly angry and hostile. His parents were aware and actively involved. As a parent and educator, I’ve seen parents who ache to help, not knowing where to turn and how to calm the brain. It is 6 months later that the facts and movements are objectively explained to the Klebolds. Their beautiful boy really had murdered his school mates of his own volition. They had carefully planned mass destruction and succeeded in killing 13 people, injuring others, and traumatizing a town and a nation.

Over the next 16 years, Sue looks for answers. What caused her son to snap? What she discovered is that easy, pat answers are what the ignorant (my word, not hers) use to falsely buffer ourselves from it ever happening to us. The reality is much more complex. Bullying, deep depression, suicidal ideation, access to guns (the Klebolds were and are pacifists), violent video games, the chemistry between these two boys all played a part. The answers aren’t in the book but some solutions are offered. Better brain health access is the big takeaway.

Although not a Marilyn Manson fan, I was impressed that he cancelled his concert to honor the victims in Colorado while the NRA did not cancel their gathering two weeks after the tragedy. At the time, I did not recognize the wisdom imparted when asked what he would tell the victims and their families Marilyn Manson said, “I wouldn’t tell them anything. I would listen.”

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