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Sue Klebold

“This process of accepting that your loved one has hurt other people. And accepting who that is and what it means to be a mother of someone like that, it takes not only months but years.”

Sue Klebold is forever tied to a tragic day marked down in American history, April 20, 1999. It was on that day two gunmen entered Columbine High School and killed 12 students, a teacher and wounded two dozen others. One of the shooters was her son, Dylan.

After an excruciating journey, Sue has come to a place of peace and is using her life to honor the lives of those who died, raise awareness for mental health issues and do what she could to prevent another tragedy like Columbine from happening again.

Sue shares her story of a mother’s love, heart-wrenching tragedy, sincere appeal for forgiveness, the long process of allowing herself to grieve, and letting go of the trauma of being hated, criticized and judged in order to focus on her heart, and the little boy she lost and adored.

Today Sue bravely, honestly and with great humility shares her 20-year journey of researching mental health, suicide, and their ramifications so that we as a community may be able to live more inspired. I think what will amaze you most is how much you can relate to Sue, her family and her story. Sue shares concrete ideas to make sure none of us have to step into her shoes. It is a podcast you won’t want to miss.

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SHOW NOTES:

  • Sue heard on the news that 25 had died and found herself praying that no more would die and if her son was the killer that he’d kill himself to stop the number of fatalities from growing.
  • “I didn’t think of him as a vicious murderer.”
  • “I went into the meeting with the sheriff thinking he’d been brainwashed or tricked. But I was shown what really happened and his level of involvement in the planning that I was in a state of shock all over again. I had to rebuild who Dylan was to me.”
  • We were very isolated after the tragedy, I had a tremendous amount of humiliation to think that someone I loved and raised could do something like this. There was a lot of fear involved.
  • “Everybody who knew Dylan was as dumbfounded as we were. All wondering what we could have said to change his involvement…trying to understand what Dylan had done, look out for each other.”
  • I remember Dylan with joy. Like if he died of cancer or a car accident.
    • I thought I’d never get to this place. I thought the way in which he died would obliterate what he had meant to me.
  • Every time I saw kids with their moms and kids with their siblings I thought Dylan took that from people. I tried to make statements, write letters to the victims…“There is nothing you can do to adequately apologize for something like that.” Read paralyzed Columbine survivor, Anne Marie Hochhalter’s letter of forgiveness to Sue.
  • “I had perceived myself to be a good mother.” “Previously, I had been one of those mothers who when crimes were being committed, went “uh-huh, what kinda parent was that.”
  • People had to think of me as a bad parent or different than them because “The thought that you could do your best and be a good parent and this could still happen is a terrifying thought.”
  • “I had no idea during his lifetime that he was in danger and that’s why I speak about this a lot today. Now I look back – after being educated, reading, talking with experts – I can say that was a potential sign. But I didn’t have the knowledge at the time.”
    • School counselors, therapist, teachers and his parents all missed potential signs. He said he’d show us that he was on the right track and he did. He worked, applied to college and did well for the next 14 months.
    • Change in behavior happened his junior year. Changes in his sleep patterns. But he presented as a normal person.  
  • “The thought that you could do your best and be a good parent and this could still happen is terrifying.”
  • “Important point to remember about mental health: What we think people should be feeling and what they are feeling can be very, very different.”
  • We need to do everything we can to truly understand what our children are going through. Ask open-ended questions (even though you can’t be certain they’ll answer truthfully):
    • “Tell me something about yourself that no one understands, but that causes you pain?”
    • Instead of trying to fix it, making your child feel like he has to “be happy” … no matter their answer, your response should always be, “tell me more about that.”
      • Ask the hard questions: Do you have thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else? Stay calm, don’t try to argue with that person.
        • I wish I’d given more of an opportunity to share more of what he was dealing with and that whatever his feelings were okay. If I could do anything over, those are the things I would make happen.
  • Sue’s book is a meditation on forgiveness A Mother’s Reckoning.
  • There is a physiological difference in those who commit suicide; when someone is having persistent thoughts of suicide and can’t shut it off – these are symptoms of a physiological brain malfunction. [Dr. Victoria Arango, Ph.D. from Columbia University] 
  • According to the FBI, of mass shootings, 78% of them the shooter was suicidal. This is why I have become so focused on suicide prevention. If we can get someone away from a suicidal crisis, it gives us great opportunity to prevent a shooting like this from escalating.
  • “I practice gratitude a lot.” I go to bed at night counting blessings to adjust my mind into a positive place.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-talk or go to their website to chathttps://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
  • All author proceeds from A Mother’s Reckoning are being donated to various mental health charities, including Mental Health America (MHA), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), American Association of Suicidology (AAS), and Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.

SUE KLEBOLD’S LIVE INSPIRED 7

1. What is the best book you’ve ever read? Oh, that’s a great question, I wish I had a long time to think about that. Gone with the Wind, Amy Tann, one of the best books on suicide: No Time to Say Goodbye.

2. Tomorrow you discover your wealthy uncle shockingly dies at the age of 103; leaving you millions. What would you do with it? Well, I think I’d sit on it for a while. I don’t think there is anything different that I would do from what I am doing. I try to live a life where I have donated what I can donate from my book. I would want to make sure that money was used well. I am so happy with how my life is.

3. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be? I think I would grab pictures of my children.

4. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? Dylan.

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? It was in the process of my therapy, where I was allowed to grieve.

6. Looking back, what advice would you give yourself at age 20? You are in for a wild ride. Nothing you can do is going to prepare yourself. You are more courageous and strong than you have any idea.

7. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read? She did the best she could.

***

If you enjoyed today’s episode: Subscribe (automatically get new episodes), rate & review (help spread the word!) this podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

I can’t wait to see you here next Thursday! Today is your day. Live Inspired.

Live Inspired with John every day on FacebookTwitterYouTubeLinkedInPinterest, Instagram and get his Monday Motivation email: www.JohnOLearyInspires.com/Monday-Morning

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Showing 5 comments
  • Dawn Lloyd
    Reply

    The last two podcasts that I listened to was your mother John and now this mother. I am in awe of them both. This woman shared her story and I have truly grown just listening to what she went through. Thank you both for sharing love and strength in the midst of tragedy. I am truly at a lost for words. Thank you! Thank you!

  • John
    Reply

    Great podcast however it sounded as if John was laughing after a tragic scene was spoken of.

    • JohnO
      Reply

      Hi John – – thanks for listening and sharing. I assure you, as the one visiting with this courageous lady, that if there was any noise that resembled laughter and she shared what she went through, it was the sound of agony/shock/loss. Like anyone who hears Sue’s story, I was stunned by it…and so grateful she continues sharing so that we all can be aware of the important issues she raises, the losses she’s endured and the invitation she extents to be a bit more compassionate with everyone.

      Again, thanks for listening…and sharing. I appreciate you,– John O’Leary

  • Sharon R. Webster
    Reply

    Thank you so much for introducing me to this courageous mom! The Columbine event impacted me at the time. My youngest son was that age. I still have a bracelet that says, “yes, i believe.” and whether or not Cassie Bernall said it or someone else, the fact remains that lives hang in the balance. Not just physical lives but eternal lives are in jeopardy. Mrs. Klebold was very astute in stating that this problem is a “huge, complex issue”. My own father took his life with a gun. My mother wanted the same policies enacted that Mrs. Klebold said California had or something similar. But remember, “hurting people hurt people”. (anon) ” The LORD is longsuffering… not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” My prayer is that someone would come to know Christ as a result of this interview.

    • John Oleary
      Reply

      Sharon, much like my heart breaks for Sue and all the families that lost loved ones on the day of the shooting, my heart certainly aches for you and your family with your loss, too. Thanks for sharing, for your courage, and your life…YOU are a gift. Keep sharing it. John O’Leary

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