In light of all the mayhem going on around the world, as a mother, I not only think about the victims, but I also think about the perpetrators. These men and women are someone’s child. What must it be like to be the mother of a murderer?

Often these parents have a typical life with their children. Just like all families, they have their struggles. No family is perfect. There may even be significant changes like moving to another town. But these are the types of changes that lots of kids go through and learn to adjust despite any disappointment or resistance to the change initially. What makes some kids unable to manage such stressors to the point of becoming violent as a means to express their unhappiness?

Often these youths first start showing signs of trouble in school. Maybe they are acting out or their grades are falling. But most parents, myself included, would not immediately consider this to be a precursor of mass murder.

When my own son got into some disciplinary problems at school and then later I busted him smoking and drinking, it never occurred to me that it was anything other than normal curiosity and teenage rebellion testing the boundaries. I did the same thing at the same age. We got through it. What makes it so different for this small group of families that don’t survive this stage?

Some experts attribute the breaking point to bullying. My son was also bullied at some point while in middle school and high school. He never said a word. That’s pretty typical of young men. They don’t come home and have a good cry with mom. Instead they remain stoic because they are supposed to be tough and take it. I never heard a word about my son’s bullying until his wife shared it with me after they had been married a couple of years. I had no idea.

That is usually the case for the parents of murderers. Their unhappy children hide this misery inside themselves. Outwardly they seem fine. If this can happen how is a parent ever to know their child needs help?

How is a parent supposed to react when the cops inform you that your daughter or son “did it”? For some, it feels as if the blood has drained from their body. Then comes the worry and the tears. As the details of the crime become available, distress at what your child has done turns to agony and abject distress and disbelief. A parent cannot believe their child could do such a thing. I know I wouldn’t be able to.

Eventually the parent has to comfort their child murderer if the child survived the event. Often the child is filled with remorse and the parent, amazingly, feels no anger. The parent is still in the stage where it is all so incomprehensible. And, finally, as reality sinks in, the parent has an enormous load of guilt that they carry for the rest of their life because they understand the loss their own child caused for the parents of his or her victims. They wonder what they could have done differently to change such a horrific outcome.

And that is what it is like to be the mother of a murderer, according to many interviews of such. Considering the mystery of it all, I can only say, “There, but by the grace of God, go I.”