Birthdays and Holidays With{out} My ILO

HI! I’d like to give you an official welcome to Incarcerated by Association! It was such a hard decision deciding to replace ChellyBeean, but it just didn’t make sense to continue as ChellyBeean. Incarcerated by Association fits my content, and it has such a nice ring to it. I feel at home with this domain, and I’m so excited for the future of this blog! With that being said, if you’re a returning reader – THANK YOU! You make it that much easier to share difficult content. If you’re new, my name is Chelsea and I blog about life with an incarcerated loved one (ILO). It was such a difficult decision to share my story, but I knew I had to share. Growing from a child with an incarcerated loved one to an adult with an incarcerated loved one, I couldn’t keep silent any longer.

Yesterday was my birthday and while it’s easier now, it hasn’t always been that way. In the beginning birthdays and holidays were terrible because they were just another reminder. God knows my family tried celebrating, but how could we with this elephant in the room? How could we celebrate knowing one was missing? In the beginning, it didn’t make sense. In childhood one, before the arrest, my family would have these grand celebrations for holidays. Our extended family would visit from out of state, everyone gave everyone gifts, we celebrated Christmas eve and Christmas day, the Christmas tree, we actually ate Thanksgiving dinner. I mean, obviously at fourteen I didn’t believe in Santa, but innocence just didn’t exist following the arrest. After the arrest, during childhood two, we stopped celebrating. Extended family stopped visiting. We stopped putting up the Christmas tree. It wasn’t until roughly 6 years after the arrest that we began celebrating holidays again. We don’t get to celebrate his birthday, so our birthdays quickly became a thing of the past.

When I moved away from my childhood home, I decided this would not be the case. I would make it a point to celebrate each birthday and holiday. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to make up for lost time. hehe! It took me so long to realize that rather than not celebrating because my ILO couldn’t, instead I should actually celebrate extra for him.

Here are some tips to ensure you don’t skip your celebration:

  1. Put up that Christmas tree
    I know it seems like such a daunting task, but you can do what I did! You could even opt for a small tree. It will bring so much unexpected joy, trust me.
  2. Purchase gifts for others
    This tip is obviously meant for your personal budget, don’t add stress to your life. Having an ILO is stressful enough. I remember a friend that wanted to swap gifts one year (this changed my entire outlook on gift giving), and even though I was terrified because my family didn’t have money to do this, I decided to take my entire part time paycheck and do this gift exchange. It kills me to admit this, but I think I came out better than her. I didn’t have the mental space or maturity to realize that rather than giving her ‘themed character’ kind of gifts, I should have opted for the general capsule style gifts. To be honest, her reaction told me she hated everything (how humiliating, right? lol), but I spent my entire check on her gifts and I just couldn’t afford to go and buy her anything different so living with her reaction was the only option I had. I remember my parents thinking it was the coolest thing for her to come over and exchange gifts (I didn’t have any other friends like this), but it was the most humiliating thing and it truly helped me understand the “poverty”, “middle class”, and “rich” terms. I truly felt like “poverty” this day. Don’t get scared, because this terrible experience in comparison to those who appreciated the thought behind my gifts helped me realize this: regardless of whether your gifts are appreciated or not, the JOY of giving will help far more than someone’s appreciation.
  3. Be social
    Don’t forget how easy it is to hide ourselves away during these times, but community will get you through it! Be a social butterfly and spend time with your loved ones so they can give you the support you need to get through the holiday celebrations.

What has helped you through the holidays with an ILO?

As a small celebration of Incarcerated by Association,

I’ll be releasing FREE printables.

Please stay tuned for more information on how to get your free printables!

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