Prison Talk: I Miss Them So Much Today

Before I begin, it’s important for me to add:

Take a moment before reading this post to miss your loved one. It is okay and important to take a moment to process this feeling of missing them.

I promise most days I’m prepared to handle the heartache. Some days, though, do you ever feel like it hits you like a ton of bricks? You know those days…the mornings where you wake up and are immediately filled with dread followed by the I miss them so much today. What makes those days any different from the rest? Are they thinking of us too in that moment so we feel a little more pain that morning?

On these mornings, the common theme for me is that same dull ache when I realize I woke up to the same reality. The reality where your loved one is still incarcerated, not the dream we’ve convinced ourselves we’re in.

I would love to say that one day these mornings just stop, but with time they only get worse. I miss him more today than I did yesterday, and I’ll miss him more tomorrow than I did today. I like to keep a special box around for days like today.

In this box, I like to keep all of the letters from my brother. I like to keep any cards he may send on birthdays or holidays. I like finding keepsakes from any time we had together and hide them in my box. I strategically place each of these things for days like today when the emotions feel so overwhelming. Each special item holds a happy memory, love and a smile. Do we really need anything more on days like today? These items are my perfect formula to happiness by the time I reach the bottom of the box! {that’s the secret} I take some time and look through each individual item. While looking I enjoy recalling each memory, and I swear if I focus hard enough it’s like he’s actually here.

These hard days can be so tough, but we can’t lose our fight. We can’t lose hope, because you never know when your loved one will need to borrow some of your hope. We must keep hope to restore theirs when they’re on empty!

If you’re ready, try imagining homecoming day. It took me a long time to be comfortable with doing this, so I encourage you to think about if you’re ready. I like to plan exactly how homecoming day will be. Create an itinerary, if you will. Where will we go first? What will we have for dinner? What’s the first thing we’ll talk about? What song will I show him first? What movie will I take him to? Where will I take him shopping for clothes? What will he want to do first? Oh, and that hug!! I like to think about that first homecoming hug for a few minutes. A few minutes, because oh how sweet it will be!

I wasn’t always so resourceful {hehe} with my coping mechanisms, and it took quite a bit of practice. I promise, when you begin putting in a conscious effort to be better in your situation you will begin seeing changes. It will always hurt, but it gets easier to make it through these moments of complete pain.

Don’t forget, you are not alone. I know it feels that way, but remember our loved ones are missing us too. I spent so long looking for someone who was going through the same thing, I overlooked the love my friends and family already had to give me. My friends and family were prepared to give me so much love in my times of pain, but I felt it needed to be a certain love they couldn’t provide. They couldn’t provide this love because I was the one with the incarcerated loved one. They only understood what I was saying, not what I was going through, and to me in this time, that love was not enough. It wasn’t enough so I completely denied them of giving it to me. I chose not to accept it. Not consciously, of course. Only in my actions of pushing them away in any way possible. Pushing family and friends away began to show up in many ways throughout my life. Choosing to say I didn’t want to hang out with friends when they asked. Choosing not to ask for extensions in school when I’d miss because I needed to attend court. Choosing not to ask for extra help from teachers when I didn’t understand things because I couldn’t focus. Looking back as an adult, my 14 year old brain didn’t understand what was happening. I understood, but I couldn’t make sense of it. I didn’t know how to tell an adult what was happening inside my mind during these first years. Choosing not to talk to my parents more…we three needed each other most in this time. My high school years were the hardest, and looking back it almost feels like I was just skimming through people looking for that one. That one person who understood exactly what I was going through because they were going through the same thing. When we’re in this much pain, it can be hard to take a step back and see the love surrounding us. I challenge you to accept the love someone is willing to give you today. I challenge you to accept and reciprocate that love. By doing this, we are creating a cycle of love that we will begin to lean on during these tough days. While it is nice to have someone who understands and my goal is to create community around this topic, don’t put too much energy into this idea. Any and all love is good love.



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?