How to Handle a Difficult Prison Visit

How to Handle a Difficult Prison Visit

When a loved one goes to prison, whether they're a friend, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, or anyone else, processing that can be difficult and frustrating. The feeling of doing an inmate search and seeing your loved one's name on the inmate list can leave a knot in your stomach. While it isn't the same as grieving the death of a loved one, the cut off of contact, the regulated visits, and the uncertainty of how they're doing at all times can make them seem farther away than they really are. 

Knowing how to navigate the emotions you're feeling, the process of visiting a prisoner, and how your life may be changing in the interim is important. There's no one answer for how to understand what you're going through entirely, but knowing where to start can be valuable. 

Know That How You're Feeling Is Normal

Whatever you feel when you do an inmate search and see your loved one's name on the list is a valid emotion. Whether you're feeling hurt, anger, loss, or any other emotion, you should understand that you're allowed to feel that way. 

The sudden loss of contact, the inability to easily visit a prisoner, and more can make it feel as though your loved one has died instead of going to prison. Many people process it the same way as they do the death of a loved one. 

You may also have to face discrimination and judgment from people outside of your immediate family - and maybe even from your immediate family themselves. Many people don't understand and may try to hold you accountable for your loved one's actions. Some people may even attempt to avoid you during this time, and you may feel isolated. 

Finally, you may feel a sense of relief. Depending on the crime committed to result in your loved one's prison visit, seeing them behind bars may bring an intense relief that you no longer have to struggle with that hanging over your head. Their name on an inmate search list may give you closure. 

No matter what range of emotions you experience, every single one of them is normal. There is no "one way" that you're supposed to feel, and people who haven't been through the same aren't able to fully understand. 

You Might Have to Make Some Tough Decisions

Things can be especially difficult if you have a partner or a spouse that goes to prison. Not only can that affect you mentally and emotionally, but it can also change your daily life. Your average day-to-day routine can be in complete upheaval because of this massive change, and trying to figure out how to cope with that can be overwhelming. 

If your spouse had a job, suddenly losing that income when they go to prison can throw things into a tailspin. Your housing situation may now be in jeopardy because you cannot pay the rent or mortgage on your own. If you have children together, daycare expenses, food, clothing, and more may suddenly become too much to pay on your own. Additionally, your spouse or partner may still rely on you to financially support them while they're in prison, adding an additional expense that you'd never had before. 

Because of this, you may have to make difficult decisions about your housing situation, job, financial responsibilities, and more. However, what's most important throughout all of this is to maintain good communication with your partner in prison. Help them to understand what's going on in your life and keep them abreast of any changes that may need to be made. 

It might be more challenging to make them understand how time-consuming it is to visit a prisoner while incarcerated. They may still expect you to spend quite a bit of time with them while they're behind bars, but it's simply not feasible to do with everything else going on in your life. It won't be easy - for both them and yourself - but it will make you feel better to lay down realistic expectations at the beginning. It will make the rest of your loved one's time in prison easier to manage. 

Don't Forget to Look After Yourself

Having a loved one in prison is stressful and overwhelming, and many people forget how important it is to look after themselves, too. Seeing a loved one's name on an inmate search daily or being constantly reminded of the situation can cause so much stress, and it's hard to figure out how to manage that stress. 

Make some time to practice self-care. Getting plenty of sleep, eating well, and staying hydrated are vital to staying healthy and well while managing stress. Even if it's just for a short period, try to carve out a little time during your day for personal care. Take a bath, read a book, play a video game, or do something else that you enjoy and that makes you happy. 

If you feel like the stress is becoming too much, it's okay to take a step back and do something special for yourself. Take the time and get a massage or go to the spa. Treat yourself to a nice dinner or head to the movies. 

Your loved one in prison does not have to be the complete focus of your world, even if it might feel like it. Take some time for yourself, and it'll be much easier to handle the other difficult times ahead. 

Jail Exchange

Jail Exchange provides a prison and inmate search for every prison across the United States. We also offer the answers to some frequently asked questions that you may have if you find a loved one on an inmate list at a local prison. We understand how difficult something like this can be, and we want to be able to provide you with the information and resources you need. 

Check out Jail Exchange today for more information.