You may find yourself feeling alone, afraid, and in despair. You are not alone. There are many people, just like you going through a similar struggle. In fact, for the over 2 million families with a loved one in prison, this shared feeling is something that many can relate to.
Take Care of Yourself. In moments of trauma such as this, it is important to grieve. Grief is a natural and healthy part of life. In fact, it is necessary in order to find your family’s new normal while they are in prison. You may even need to press pause on some things or ask for help from loved ones or family. Just make sure you are taking care of yourself and your own mental health in this season. For more in the grieving process, read this article.
Tell Your Family. Many lives are affected when a loved one goes to prison. Because of this, it is important to have a heart-to-heart with those affected. Starting with your direct family, find a time to share the news with them as soon as possible. This may be a difficult conversation, so be emotionally prepared.
Find a Support Group. No one should try to go it alone, especially when their loved one is incarcerated. Surrounding yourself with people who love and support you and your family is one of the most important decisions you will make in this challenging time in your life. Regardless of the length of time, the trauma, anxiety and untold other ways it will impact you and your family’s life will require people around you to support you and offer counsel.
Share Your Story. This should be something that you will need to discuss as a family. There are many ways to go about telling others, just make sure your family agrees on what and how much you are willing to tell others. As hard as it may be, it’s important not to run away from your story. That being said, not everyone needs to know everything as well. Make time to talk as a family about how to address the situation and be sensitive to everyone’s emotions.
Be There For Your Loved One. There are many ways you can show your support. From writing letters, in-person visits, weekly phone calls or the occasional gift. In fact, buying books and other mementos can be a profoundly impactful way to show them you are thinking of them. Be sure to consult your state’s guidelines on appropriate gifts to give. For more on gifts to give a love one in prison, read this article we wrote.
Create a Budget. This may seem frivolous at the moment, but it is crucial to make a gameplan going forward. Especially if it is your partner, no doubt it will affect your family’s finances. Creating a budget with your current situation in mind, it’s essential in order to help your family sustain this season. This may require a move or other steps that may be necessary in order to manage while they are away. You may need to ask family or friends to help with chores or tasks for a while while you adjust.
Be Patient With Each Other. This season will be one of the most difficult times you will face. It is important to allow your family to share their frustration with each other. There will be times where, in your frustration, you will say things to each other you will regret. In those moments, you will need to show patience and kindness.
Overcoming Guilt. It is very common for those with a loved one in prison to feel guilty. Although it may feel like it is your fault, it is important to differentiate guilt from caring for your loved one. If you allow yourself to be overcome with misplaced guilt, it can hinder your ability to be there for your family. Make an effort to move beyond any guilt you may feel in order to be healthy and whole again.
As you discover the new normal for your family, it is important to find ways to celebrate each other, making time for family along the way. With the limitations of incarceration, it will be difficult, but it is crucial for you and your loved one to find ways to heal together.
Read about TYRO founders Ron and Cathy Tijerina’s story of overcoming incarceration here.