How to Cope With the Incarceration of a Loved One

How to Cope With the Incarceration of a Loved One

There are few things more overwhelming and emotional than hearing that your loved one is getting locked up. For partners, children, and loved ones, the news can be devastating to cope with.

In 2019, the United States reported over two million prisoners across the country in federal and state prisons, as well as jails. While there are obvious mental health concerns for the prisoner, loved ones also experience a profound amount of grief and stress. 

If someone you love is incarcerated, taking care of your mental wellness is a priority. This will make you better equipped to handle your grief and give you time to accept the loss. 

Keep reading to learn about important coping strategies for your mental health while your loved one is incarcerated. 

Focus On the Present Moment

Thinking about the length of a jail sentence can be overwhelming. Instead of thinking about the future and how to handle the coming years, focus on the present day. Take it one day at a time and handle your feelings in the current moment. 

Accepting the grief of a loved one in incarceration will take time. Focus on what each day brings and try not to look too far into the future. 

Take Extra Care of Yourself

Taking care of your mental health is vital during this stressful time. Although it may be difficult to focus on yourself while a family member is in jail, it is important to manage your stress in a healthy way. 

There are some self-care suggestions that you can try to help ease your stress. For some, it is easy to get into a dangerous cycle of substance abuse, overeating, or other unhealthy habits to cope. 

Here are some ways that you can take care of your body and mind during this incredibly difficult time: 

  • Try some exercise or physical activity 
  • Get a good night's rest 
  • Talk to a friend or family member about what you're feeling
  • Allow yourself to feel the loss 
  • Eat healthy foods 
  • Be kind and patient with yourself 
  • Get a massage or go to the hair salon

These are a few ways that you can take care of your mental health. Supporting yourself can mean many different things. Everyone responds to stress differently and so too does stress management look different for each person.

Consider How to Tell Your Children

Telling your children that a family member is going to prison can be difficult. It might be tempting to make up a story or give an excuse for why the person is away, but it is better to be honest with your children. 

Sharing the truth with your children and having an open dialogue about the situation can help them cope with their own feelings. They might take on guilt or blame for a loved one not being present in their lives. Explaining the truth can be more beneficial than you think. 

Create a Plan 

Creating a family plan is important after a family member goes to prison. This can mean several things and will look different in every household.

You might need to reschedule duties and responsibilities for getting the kids to and from school, organizing childcare, or cooking and cleaning. If your loved one was the income provider, you will need to plan a new family budget as well. 

Keep in mind, you also might want to plan for jail costs within your budget. Phone calls and inmate commissary items are also costly.

Keep a Journal

When you're missing someone, it can be hard to articulate your feelings. Try keeping a journal and writing down your thoughts, feelings, and conversations with your loved one. 

This is a great way to reflect on your feelings and look back in the future at your growth during such a challenging time. 

Know the Rules Ahead of Time 

Before your first visit, try to contact the facility to know exactly what to expect. It might be less stressful if you know what the process will be like. 

Some jails don't allow physical contact or allow minimal contact. But knowing what to expect ahead of time can take away some of the tension.

The Jail Exchange can help you get in touch with a facility so you can get the information that you need. 

Try Calming Techniques Before Your Visit 

Visiting someone in jail can be overwhelming, especially for the first time. You will experience a lot of heightened emotions. There are many ways that you can calm your stress and tension. 

Before you go for a visit, try some calming techniques to help you work through your anxiety. 

Communicate Openly With Your Loved One 

When you have the opportunity to talk with your loved one, share your feelings with them. It might be difficult but, if it is your partner or spouse who is incarcerated, communication is important just like with any other relationship. 

You will experience difficult emotions and it is important to be open and honest about them. 

Join a Support Group

Dealing with a loved one in jail is like coping with grief. Talking about your experience and finding support is crucial for your own mental wellness. 

It might be therapeutic for you to join a support group with others who are going through the same thing.

Get Counseling 

If you don't want to share your experience in a group setting, you can opt for personal counseling. 

Coping with a loss is very personal and it is important to talk about your feelings. If you prefer a more intimate setting, you can opt for services from a grief counselor. 

Cope With Incarceration by Focusing on Your Mental Wellness 

Accepting that your family member is incarcerated can be difficult. Taking care of your mental wellness is important during this challenging time. You can do so by staying present, taking care of yourself, trying calming techniques, joining a support group, getting counseling, creating an action plan, and keeping a journal. 

Be sure to visit our website to search for an inmate and get in touch with a loved one in jail.