Prison Talk: My Loved One was Arrested, Now What?!

I’ll remember this day until I die. For me, I had band rehearsals that day. I was 14 and beginning my Freshman year of high school the following week. We were in the car, just beginning to leave. We made it to the end of our drive way when not one, but three police cruisers pulled in front of us. Immediately jumping out of the car, I’ll never forget them shouting at us. Screaming like we were animals and guns raised. Guns. I remember the gun pointing at my brother, and I remember BEGGING “Can I please give him a hug? Please can I hug my brother?”. I remember crying for months just wondering, “Why couldn’t I hug my brother???” It just stunned me, I was completely and utterly in shock. I just knew my brother needed me to hug him. My 14 year old brain was convinced that if I could just hug him, somehow we’d magically be transported to five years prior when things were sweet. Hell, even two months prior. A time that this didn’t exist. As I mentioned above, we were already in the car in transit to school. So, we also got to follow him in the cruiser until we each split ways – about a minute from the detention facility. Once he was arrested, I had no idea where to turn. I had no idea what to do. I had no idea what to say.

During the first months, I spent so much time on the internet…researching and researching. Not only was I searching for that “magical answer”, but I was also searching for ways to cope. While I was able to find a few websites, they just seemed as cold as the idea of prison. There was just something about the idea of communicating with someone who understood without having to explain myself. Genuinely understood first-hand the damage an incarcerated loved one (ILO)can do to an individual. This is precisely the reason I decided to begin this blog. An attempt, after all these years, to begin my very own community and support system. After ten years, it feels like I’ve got this one mastered, unfortunately. Here are 5 things that helped me:

  • DO NOT – whatever you do – DO NOT google ANYTHING in relation to your case.
    Sure, it seems like a great idea to stay informed. {Your lawyer is the best place to stay informed} Even to see what others are thinking/saying. Please, let me save you the pain. Please. DO NOT GOOGLE ANYTHING. Actually, just stay away from this subject while on the internet. If you begin seeing anything, close it immediately. Close your phone, and take 5 deep breaths. During these few minutes, tell yourself what you love about your ILO. If this isn’t an option, focus on the most beautiful place you’ve seen on earth. Focus on this place until your mind is convinced you’re there. Focus until your nose believes you’re there, smelling each and every beautiful scent.
  • ACCEPT your situation.
    The only way we can begin making progress and cope with our situation is to accept our situation. This isn’t something that is going to happen overnight. In fact, it didn’t happen for me for YEARS. I don’t mean to scare you, but each family and individual is different. Each allegation is different. Each case is different. Before focusing on too many other things, try spending your energy on accepting the situation in front of you. Truly accept what is happening. Please do not get this confused with losing hope. I fought acceptance for the longest, because I thought this meant I was losing hope and letting him down. Instead, think of it this way: By accepting our situation, we are able to provide the mental and emotional support our loved ones will need in this time. Some days are easier than others.
  • Communication
    Write letters. Visit. Do whatever you can to maintain as much communication as possible. When you have an ILO, it immediately feels as though they’ve died. Especially depending on how much communication you’re allowed. For me, this was the case seeing as I had a total of 1 hour for visits {two 30 minute sessions}, and the only time he could call was anywhere between 1a-3:30a. Yep, you read that right. He was only able to call during the night between these hours. During these phone calls, we were allotted 15 minutes. 15 minutes that were not guaranteed, but I’d still be charged for. And yep, earlier, you read that correctly, I was just beginning my freshman year. No wonder it went so poorly. Almost every night I’d be awake during these hours talking to my ILO. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying every 14 year old should be doing this,I actually think their phone calls should wait until the weekend as to not intrude upon school. The cool thing about this tip, it will help both you and your ILO. Write as many letters as you feel necessary, because your ILO has nothing but time. Nothing but time to think (what I imagine to be a perpetual “i’m lying in the bed at 2a trying to sleep but I cant stop thinking” moment), and why not fill this time with your voice and your loving words. I know from first hand experience, this makes huge differences in morale. Even when writing letters gets hard – don’t stop sending them. Find something to say. Play a game of hangman. Discuss current celebrity events. Anything to keep the conversation light and loving.
  • Family over everything
    Don’t forget to lean on your family. Unfortunately, due to being in my teen years, this was something I was completely against. {Yes, teens, I’m talking to you in this point} You don’t always need to talk. Just be with your family. Accept the love they’re willing to give you. Embrace their love, because you need it more than you’re aware right now. If anyone understands what it’s like to have an ILO, it’s them! They’re going through this with you. If your family is like mine, and struggles in the communication department just bring it up. Try saying “I know it’s hard for both of us, and we don’t need to talk right now, but maybe we could just be together.” If you have children, no matter the age, talk to them. Push and pry, because they need to process this. They may be struggling more than they say. They need you more than they know right now.
  • Set boundaries
    In the process of worrying about our loved ones, we must not forget about ourselves. Sometimes we can give so much support that we forget about ourselves. Please don’t make this mistake. If there are visits you can’t make, be honest. If there are phone calls you can’t take, be honest. If there are letters you can’t write, be honest. We must be honest and upfront with our loved ones because, like I said earlier, they have so much time to think. To support them, we must help them understand our boundaries. In helping them understand our boundaries, we are preventing them from thinking the worst. Aside from our ILO, we must be aware of setting boundaries with others as well. Every aspect of what you’re going through is painful, so be sure to help others understand these boundaries to avoid any unnecessary pain.

As much as I would like to say “it gets better”, it does not. If anything, it gets harder with each passing day without your loved one. The key is what we decide to do with these emotions. We can cry about it. We can cry about it to others. We can wallow in the pain. OR we can begin working to accept our situation.

Which will you decide to do?

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