Real Thoughts I Had When My Teenage Bully Died

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sad woman in dark room

I found out through a text from a friend of mine that a high school bully of mine was dead: “Did you hear? She died. She went to our high school. It’s really sad.”

I didn’t say anything at first. Empathetic, warm-hearted me hesitated before answering. I didn’t want to sound like a total insensitive jerk.

I knew my friend knew this old bully of mine but I wasn’t sure how friendly they had been, especially after years of trying to learn how to deal with bullies and protect myself.

Plus, some of my thoughts didn’t align with who I am inside — a good person with a big heart.

But even good people with big hearts can decide they’ve had enough of toxic people’s garbage, especially when it comes to the past and bullying in schools. They don’t want to forgive someone all that easily when they’ve been done completely wrong.

RELATED: 10 Struggles Only People Who Were Bullied In School Will Understand

How do you deal with the death of a high school bully?

“She was pretty awful to me. That’s sad, though,” I replied. The word on the street and gossip was the death was perhaps drug or suicide-related.

And as I processed the news that the woman who had bullied me as a teenager and continued to do so as an adult was dead, I had a lot of thoughts streaming through my brain like a rapid social media news feed reel.

This bully was a nuisance, pest, and toxic human being in my high school, but I spent more of my life after that never seeing her again.

We didn’t run in the same circles, and I moved on and grew up to be a functioning adult.

Most high school bullies grow up, too. Well, some do. Some become amazing humans and learn from their trials and bad choices.

Thirteen years after graduating high school, I ran into this person outside of my local gym.

At the time I had accomplished much: I had been on television for a few years, was almost an official Ivy League graduate, was dating someone, and had retired my combat boots for a pair of pink converse.

I barely recognized her as I exited my local gym, and went to go to the ATM at the liquor store right next to it, desperate for some cash. As I plugged in my pin number, I heard a nasty voice and saw some shaggy hair, then the face.

The face was older, but I remembered who she was in an instant.

“Laura Lifshitz. You think you’re such hot s***, don’t you? MTV, woo-hoo! Whatever, skinny slut.”

That was just one of the things she said. The rest? I’d care to not say and some of which I don’t remember. Worse was, her voice grew in volume with each nasty statement that came from her venomous mouth.

My high school bully had not grown up.

She had not become a functioning adult. She was darker and sicker than before.

I looked at her and said, "Uh, who are you?" while creepily walking away, unsure if she was drunk or under the influence. I would never let her know I knew who she was. She didn’t deserve that dignity.

She started screaming at me and following me outside of the store. I looked around to call for other people as I wanted to run from the liquor store, not knowing what other drunks might be there.

There wasn’t help to be found, so I decided to not look back or say a word. I wasn’t in high school anymore and it was very clear to me that she — not I  was the loser.

She didn’t follow me to my car but as I drove away, I could still see her standing and yelling outside the store. I went home, told my boyfriend at the time, and then blocked her on Facebook.

I had periodically seen her name on other people’s posts and feeds but it wasn’t enough to make the effort to block. Now that she had gone psycho on me, I felt I had a strong reason to block her.

Yet, here I was, ten years after the fact, finding out that the woman I blocked was dead. Dead and gone, never to bother me again.

But I knew even when I was a teen that she wasn’t well. She was incredibly rough on the edges and inside.

I had my troubles and heartaches but on the inside, I still had hope and love in me, always, even amongst my teenage angst. She seemed too hard to have a soft center, even at 15 years old.

I knew, even more, when we "reunited" years later outside the store, as she hung on the edge of the sidewalk of that liquor store letting out a string of god-knows-what that alcohol, drugs, mental illness, or any of the three had created.

When my friend told me she was dead, I didn’t flinch and I wasn’t surprised. It was as if I knew it had been coming.

RELATED: 3 Psychological Reasons Even Good People Become Bullies

I had to find out if my friend was right, so I Googled and saw my bully’s memorial page. Photos of her as a fresh-faced young girl graced the page.

As a mom of a young girl, I tried to imagine myself as her family, as the people who had hope and faith in her. I want to say it was easy for me, but it wasn’t.

But the photos of her as a young girl made me feel sad.

Someone was once her mother as I was my daughter’s mother. Someone had once loved her (or perhaps not) like I love my child.

She once had potential. She was once better than she became, no matter how she passed. She was once not a bully or consumed with alcohol. She once had dreams and ideas and lots of possibilities.

To know that a young woman could lose out on that and turn down a bad path hurts me as a mother, as a woman, and as a human.

I didn’t need to know if her death was caused by drugs, suicide, or illness. I knew in my heart there were demons in her that existed for reasons I will never know, and that’s okay.

I don’t need to know details because I'm at peace.

I was a target of her sickness but not the cause. I am not the unconfident teen I once had been. Her words didn’t hurt me anymore, and more than anything, I knew she hurt way more than I ever had.

To all my friends with children: Bullies "bully" because they have problems within themselves. They have hurts, sicknesses, issues, and injuries that bleed out and “infect” other people.

When your children learn how to deal with bullies, remind them of that. Remind them that the individual is most likely suffering more than your child can imagine.

It doesn’t necessarily make it easier but it does breed a place of compassion, empathy, and strength to know that they aren't the only ones with the problem.

Before she had passed, I was at peace. It took a few weeks after that nasty event at the liquor store for me to forget her nastiness.

I would go to the gym and rush in, avoiding ever using that ATM again. But other than that, I was happy and moving on with my life. I was grateful for the ability to block people on Facebook.

I was happy. I had made the best of my life and wouldn’t let someone affect me like she once did.

I only can hope that her family, loved ones and friends can find peace knowing that maybe, just maybe, she's happier now than she was here. That maybe those demons are laid to rest.

RELATED: 8 Types Of Cyberbullying-And How To Protect Your Kids From Them

Laura Lifshitz writes about divorce, sex, women’s issues, fitness, parenting, and marriage for YourTango, New York Times, DivorceForce, Women’s Health, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, and others. Visit her website for more.