I will never forget the experience of Ron going to prison.
It changed everything. It changed my family, my opinion of the justice system, and my world view. It changed who I was. The change was immediate, and yet also a journey. You have to experience it to understand how much prison affects your life. Change kept coming, and I found myself on an unexpected journey. I was totally unprepared for what I was about to experience. Little did I know then, I was up for the challenge.
"I can clearly recall the vast emptiness that was trying to suffocate me."
It took me several weeks to navigate out of the shock that I was in. Crazy as it seems now, I didn’t even realize I was in shock at the time. I just went numb. I walked around like a zombie through those first weeks. I am so thankful that I had a friend who made lists for me because nothing was natural or intuitive. I made breakfast and ate only because it was on the list! Shock is like that. It steals your identity away and leaves a huge questioning void in the shell of who you used to be. Thankfully, I moved out of shock and eventually through all the stages of healing. Did you know that there is a process of stages that we must go through to really overcome the impact of prison? Well, there is. I made it through all the phases, broke the cycles of self-destruction, and started a new legacy for myself and my family. Now, I live in the cycle of self-improvement.
I want to share with you what these cycles – Self-Destruction and Self-Improvement – look like. You need to know there are normal and natural phases you will go through. You also need to be warned that you can get stuck in a phase and keep repeating the cycle of self-destruction unless you know how to move out of each phase. I will also tell you how to build a new cycle – the cycle of self-improvement. There is a specific progression that we take. I am going to share the secret of successfully overcoming any challenge life has thrown at you and avoiding the pitfalls so many get trapped in. I will share one phase per post over the coming weeks so you can identify where you are and find out how to move to the next level.
You see, it wasn’t until later that I realized that I had navigated through a journey – the same one that everyone else goes through when they overcome hardships. The beginning of that journey was “Shock.” Shock is the first place we land when something unexpected and painful occurs in our lives. Shock is the place where our minds are still trying to catch up to the reality of what has happened. Reality looks like a scene from a horror movie, and our minds reject that it is true. We struggle to function and struggle to process the events. We shut down. We do only what we need to do to survive another day.
Shock - The Beginning of the journey
The first time someone is taken to jail or prison, disbelief and shock set in. You experience it, and your husband/loved one experiences it too. Shock is that sickening feeling of surprise that strikes and begins the process toward healing or more destruction if you don’t know how to get out. As we take in all the events that have led us to where we are, as reality breaks through, we are shaken to our core. Even those who have experienced prison before find themselves in this place of shock. As scary as this is, it is the wake-up call. It is exactly what we need to begin the journey we are about to take. This is the first step for anyone facing any trauma or difficult situation in life. When a painful event occurs, whether the consequence was earned or unfairly imposed, the person living it is surprised, upset, and enters the shocked stage.
"During your own pain and numbness, you must help your children navigate through their pain."
Even worse, not only are you going through shock, your children are also experiencing the shock. Now, during your own pain and numbness, you must help your children navigate through their pain. Never had I been so unprepared, so unqualified, to do anything in my life! My children needed me, and I could barely think straight.
Our children are often completely caught off guard and totally surprised by the sudden loss in their lives. Shock can be expressed differently among all your children. It is less noticeable in older children as they are aware of society’s expectations; they feel the pressure NOT to show or feel pain because of what is happening with their parent. However, as shock hits us and our children in waves, we often work to build stronger walls to keep the pain out. But this only leads to more emotional, mental, and spiritual distress.
The longer you ignore the fear, the harder it becomes to move forward.
You and your children might struggle to appear unaffected by the deep loss you have just suffered. The longer you ignore it, the harder it becomes to move forward. Fear can increase and cripple you. It is often difficult – or impossible – to find support in a world that seems cruel, uncaring, and self-righteous.
The Shock phase is normal and healthy as it allows the impact of what is transpiring in your life to sink in slowly. Shock slows your brain down to keep the trauma of prison from knocking you down permanently, but you cannot stay there. You have to move beyond shock so you can move out of the cycle of self-destruction. There are things you can do to help you move beyond the shock of your situation.
First, as I mentioned, having a list will help you get through safely. Write down everything you need to do in a normal day. No matter how simple the task, write it down: fix meals, wash dishes, shower, brush teeth, comb hair, check mail, pay bills, take kids to school, and so on. This will help you come back to reality.
Talk to someone daily about what you are feeling. If you don’t have someone you feel you can talk to, keep a journal. Just keep telling your story so you can get it out and start to make sense of it.
As you begin to function in your “new normal,” make a plan to keep moving forward with your personal and family goals. Setting and reaching goals is a big step toward moving out of shock. Your life is not over. You do not need keep everything “on hold” until your husband comes home. It is ok to set goals and work toward building a better life for you and your family. Setting and reaching goals is a big hit to shock. Keep in mind that your journey is just beginning, but you are up for the challenge.
I am rooting for you!