Working through the new reality of a loved one in prison

Was your loved one recently imprisoned? If so, there are probably lots of emotions running through you right now. You may be angry at the situation. You might feel guilty, thinking you could have done something to change the outcome. You might even feel grief for what you’ll miss from your loved one being put behind bars. There are so many feelings that you can experience when a loved one is in prison.

First and foremost, let’s address the guilt. If you’re feeling this, you’ll need to find a way to work through it. The choices others make aren’t your fault. You will need to find a way to forgive yourself and move on. This may require doing some reading, praying, finding a counselor to talk to, or joining a support group. All of these methods can be helpful for anyone going through the reality of a loved one being locked up. No matter what you’re feeling, relying on a higher power, consulting supportive people, or seeking therapy can be beneficial.

Beyond dealing with the emotions that you’ll inevitably be facing, you’ll also want to prepare for some things. If the loved one locked up also helped pay the bills, you’ll want to consider how this will affect your budget and what you can do to manage the finances to fit your new reality. Even if your loved one didn’t help pay the bills, you may consider budgeting differently to help support your loved one while in jail (ie: money for phone calls, the prison commissary, and reentry).

Consider how you’ll address the situation with others. You may choose to tell the truth. You may also find that you’re more comfortable saying that the person has moved. Also, think about who you’ll share the details with. If you have kids, be sure to think about how you’ll inform them. It’s typically best to share where the loved one really is, as opposed to another story. You can also give the child time to talk about anything that’s on their mind and ask questions.

Know that things will be different. You will need to adopt new routines. You may even need to make new friendships. While some friends will stick around, others may be more strained. Try to focus on the good things happening in your life and on positive changes you can make. Also, focus on staying in the moment instead of dreading what else could go wrong.

Make sure that you’re taking care of your needs. Feeling stressed and down may lead you to neglect yourself. Consider what you ought to be doing to keep yourself well. Even if you’re unable to schedule bedtimes or mealtimes, make sure that you’re committing to your health and wellness. Also, be realistic about other needs you may have. If it was another member of your household who’s in prison, you’ll probably need help with various responsibilities. Be honest about this with other loved ones and see who is willing to chip in or hire help if that’s financially feasible.

When a loved one is imprisoned, it can be a lot to cope with. It will take time to develop your new routines and work through all of the emotions you’re experiencing. Fortunately, you don’t have to do this by yourself. Find others you can count on. If you’re looking for online support, please check out my group Prisoner of Hope.

[Monalisa Johnson is a licensed and ordained minister of the gospel and a certified life coach as well as a mother and entrepreneur. In no way is anything that she writes, speaks or shares considered medical advice or clinical therapy. Consider all that you receive to be life coaching and guidance.]

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