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Bullied classmate surprised by apologies at reunion

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Dear Abby: I'm writing regarding "Lost for Words" (July 7), who skipped her 10-year high school reunion because she was bullied in school. (She is now receiving Facebook messages from former classmates who want to apologize.)

That letter could have been about me! I was bullied all through school, too. Things were so bad I honestly don't know how I kept it together. I never even told my parents how bad it was until years after I had graduated.

My class (1972) had their 10-year reunion and I went, although I almost didn't because I was scared. When I got there, I was given hugs by classmates. Some of them apologized, and it was wonderful. I enjoyed myself so much that I helped organize our 20th and 25th reunions.

"Lost," you can either keep reliving those painful moments and continue to suffer, or rise above it, prove to your classmates and yourself that they can't hurt you anymore and get to know each other now as peers.

Counseling helped me to learn to deal with bad things in my life. Don't get me wrong, I still have some issues and life isn't always easy, but I have learned to let go and forgive these people. They, too, have grown up and are now mature adults who know right from wrong. – Cathy in Esterphazy, Canada

Dear Cathy: Thank you for sharing your experience and insights along with many other readers who were bullied in school. One common denominator in their letters was the word "forgiveness." Interestingly, I received none from the bullies themselves!

Read on:

Dear Abby: As middle school teachers, we do our best to curtail abuse, but it happens behind the scenes. The targets can remain bullied for years, as the writer expressed. It is sad that this person is affected to this day, 10 years after graduation.

I agree the target has no obligation to forgive the bullies, but this would be a perfect time to send a strong message to them via her Facebook page. An article on the effects of bullying could be posted with a message that if the bullies truly want forgiveness, they should pass this life lesson on to their children who may be engaged in similar behavior. – Mary Ann in New York

Dear Abby: When I attended my 10th reunion, the people who had bullied me apologized and I told them I forgave them. I just attended my 30th reunion, and some of the same bullies asked again for my forgiveness. They are in a self-imposed prison of guilt from which they will be free only when they can ACCEPT that I forgive them. My advice to "Lost" is to respond to the Facebook messages with a thank-you, and leave it at that. – Dawna in Montana

Dear Abby: Three years ago, I went to my 50th. It was the only reunion I ever attended. Halfway through the event, the "bully brigade" came up to me to apologize for their behavior. I hadn't thought about it and was having a great time. But suddenly, I was emotionally thrown back into those years of hating school because of how I was treated.

On my way out, I confronted the worst bully. I told her her apology was NOT accepted, and they could all keep their apologies and hold onto their guilt for another 50 years. The minute I said it, it was like a great burden had been lifted from my shoulders. – Anne in Ohio

Dear Abby: I was a late bloomer. When the time came for my 30th reunion, I was a successful, confident millionaire with a knockout blond wife, and I looked years younger than my age. My classmates were bald, wrinkled or saggy. There was no 40th reunion – they had all given up. Living well really IS the best revenge.– Happy in the South

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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