An Open Letter to Susan Bibeau


October 23, 2014 by rebelwithalabelmaker

I am so sorry for your loss.  For the loss of your son—the adult man he was last week, and also the young boy that you tucked into bed and cooked for and played with for so many years.  I am sorry that you are now surrounded in a life that is defined—at least for the moment—by the actions of your son on the last day of his life.  I am sorry that you feel responsible for the pain and grief of so many.

You are not responsible.  Every parent goes over their mistakes and undoubtedly you have made some.  We all have.  Mistakes in parenting are supposed to happen.  There is supposed to be room for error.  People who speak of your son as though his actions are a direct result of your mistakes are trying to comfort themselves with the idea that this could never happen to them.  You do not owe anyone an explanation.

You are entitled to your grief—over the death of your son, over the change in your own life, over the death of the man that was shot.  You are also entitled not to grieve.  You are entitled to pain and rage and remorse but you are not obligated to any of these feelings.  You have a right to whatever you are experiencing and you have a right to be given compassion and space to process your feelings as best you can.

I am sorry about what has happened to you.  I am sorry that when your name is Google searched, this is now what comes up—that every other part of your life (and your son’s life) has been temporarily erased.  I am sorry that you have had to take precautions to quarantine yourself from a country that should be joining in your grief and offering you support.  I am sorry that my words will not reach you, in part because of the physical barriers that you have had to erect, and in part because even if you could hear me I am not sure you could believe me.  Please, please surround yourself with people of compassion and understanding, and do not stop until you find the help you need to make it through this.  Because this will get better than it is right now.  It will never be erased from your life but it will get better than it is right now.

There are many people who need comfort right now, and our hearts ache to reach out and to stand beside every one of those people.  I want to you to know that tonight I think of you, and I hope that in some part of your mind, some part of your grief you are aware of the mothers all over the country who cannot reach you, who can never fully understand what you are going through, but who nevertheless stand beside you in spirit.

You have a right to your grief.  You have a right to be treated with compassion.  You did not cause this.  You could not have prevented this.  This does not define you.  It is not who you are.


17 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Susan Bibeau

  1. I love you for writing this, Liz. I do hope it somehow finds its way into that mother’s hands.

  2. Rob says:

    It takes a special kind of humanity to focus here as you have done. As I read it all I could think of was “But of course!” … and then a certain guilt for not having thought of it myself. Thanks for leading on the road of compassion.

  3. Ellen Bell says:

    Liz, you have brilliantly put into words what I have been silently thinking. Thank you for this. I also hope that his mother reads it.

  4. surfpower says:

    Dear Liz, You may be getting this twice. I am not sure who you are or where you are or how I stumbled upon your compassionate letter. I was in the process of trying to compose a letter of support to Ms Bibeau as well when I found yours. I made some introductory comments in an email to her and then copied your letter and a link to your blog and sent it to her work email. Who knows when or if she will read the email, but I hope she does and knows that there are likely thousands of mothers who are wanted to help ease her tremendous burden. Two women lost sons in Ottawa yesterday. It was an unspeakable tragedy.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. It makes me so grateful to think of people like you, trying to find her and reach her and support her–and I am so glad to hear about you sending the letter. I’ll put it in an email to her work as well (I hope hope hope that she has compassionate volunteers sorting through that stuff for her and collecting these letters for her if she ever needs them or is ready).

  5. molly nichol says:

    thank you liz – well said.

  6. Nicole Sims says:

    I’m weeping for the loss of a fine young man who was standing on guard for us all; and for the loss of a man who had obviously got lost somewhere along the way. We parents do our best, but we, too, are human, and there are no instruction manuals. It takes a village to raise a child, and it also takes a village, a health-care system, a justice system, to abandon one to addiction and despair.
    Mrs. Bibeau, I don’t know if you were a terrible parent or a wonderful one, or just average like most of us, but I do know that whatever start you gave your son in life was not to blame for what he did yesterday.
    Please believe that many of us are mourning as much for your family as for the victim’s, and perhaps more, because you’ve lost not only your son, but the memory of him (for now), and have the added burden of guilt.
    May you find peace. May you find a way to reconnect with your good memories.

  7. Yes, and thank you, Liz. Beautiful, compassionate words reflect what so many are feeling. Hoping this understanding and support will be felt by all who need it.

  8. Thank you all so much. I love that this letter of support is not a stand alone piece, but nestled in so many supportive statements. And I want you all (and everyone) to know that I have published every single comment I was sent. I was prepared to delete hateful messages, but there have been none. Every single thought expressed has been beautiful and supportive and kind.

  9. Jennifer says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you for writing it.

  10. Josée Cyr says:

    Thanks for writing this letter. It is soothing.

    I feel for the parents of that guy.

    They are not responsible for his choices. He was a grown man.

    I cannot believe how cruel people can be in such a situation. The parents of either guys needs support.

    Thansk again and I sure hope Mme Bibeau gets to read your letter.

  11. Nisha says:

    I hope she gets your letter. How easy it would be to blame the gunman when we have no idea what pain he himself was in. Everyone deserves compassion and kindness.

  12. Nisha says:

    I wanted to add, as parents we all to the best we can for our children, but ultimately they are responsible for their own lives. We can’t control our adult children.

  13. revkarenfg says:

    Thank you, Liz, for opening me up to the multiple tragedies of this day.

  14. cgjohnston says:

    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this, I hope that it does reach Susan Bibeau and I also hope that this will reach some of those who think otherwise and help them to be more understanding, kind and loving.

  15. Wendy Gregg says:

    There are so many mothers that need to hear this message and take it to heart. Many thanks for writing it.

  16. Christine says:

    Thank you for writing this. I have since this tragedy happened wished I could somehow let both mother’s know how sad I felt for their loss. I could only let one know. I hope somehow Susan sees these words, or knows that many of us have her in our thoughts. I have not heard one negative word in my community about her. I hope she does not have to grieve alone.

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