DEAR ABBY: You said in your Nov. 14 column on bullying that you hadn't received a single letter from anyone who had bullied others. Well, I was a bully.
As a young girl I'd tease and taunt, and when I was older I used sarcasm as a way to bully. I was involved in an abusive relationship in my 20s. With support and counseling, I was able to stop being abused and being abusive.
I learned the feelings I had repressed -- shame, fear and low self-worth from a childhood of sexual and physical abuse -- were misdirected at the people around me instead of at my abuser, my father, as they should have been. I'm not saying this is an excuse for the hurt I inflicted on others, but for me there was a correlation.
I'm now in a loving and supportive relationship. We have raised our children to be kind, thoughtful and confident individuals. I'm involved with an organization supporting nonprofit programs in our community that empower abused children, reach out to the sexually exploited and help women experiencing domestic violence.
Because of the life I lead now, I have been able to let go of the negativity and shame of being abused, but the shame of being abusive stays with me. I hope the people I hurt have forgiven me and have been able to move forward. But I will never know for sure.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story. Even if it doesn't get printed, writing it has lifted a little bit of the weight that I still carry from my bullying days. -- REDEEMING MYSELF OUT WEST
DEAR REDEEMING: Confession is good for the soul, and if getting this off your chest has been helpful, I'm glad. Obviously, you have grown since the days when you were an abuser, and your focus on helping vulnerable people in your community is laudable. I hope you will continue the work that you're doing because there is great need for it.
If your letter makes just one person stop and think twice about why he or she would deliberately hurt or diminish someone else, it will have been worth the space in my column because sometimes those scars can last a lifetime.
DEAR ABBY: I recently lost a niece. She had struggled with substance abuse and was away at college when she died. I believed in what a wonderful person she was and could be, and often sent her cards of encouragement.
When my sister and her husband went to retrieve her belongings, they mentioned that she had my cards around her room. I had hoped that her parents would give them to me, but three months later, they have not. Would it be wrong for me to ask for them? -- LOVING AUNT IN THE SOUTH
DEAR LOVING AUNT: Please accept my sympathy for your family's loss. The cards may not have been offered because your sister and her husband are experiencing the depths of grief. While it would not be "wrong" to ask if you can have them, don't be surprised if they refuse to let them go -- at least for the time being. Having the possessions their daughter surrounded herself with may be important to them right now as a way of feeling closer to her.
To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.