Coping with Mother’s Day When You Have Been Incarcerated

Around the time of Mother’s Day, I can’t help but reflect on my anti-social responses to such events. During my incarceration I learned to accept my inability to be with my family during special occasions. In fact, I became complacent, maybe even numb, about emotional needs that are often filled by spending time with loved ones.

I haven’t seen my mother in months. I haven’t even spoken to my three older sisters or my oldest brother. The odd thing is that I’m not the least bit bothered by it, but I want to be. I want to yearn to be with these family members. I often tell myself that it doesn’t bother them if they talk to me or see me, and in turn it doesn’t bother me.

Over the years while I was incarcerated I think everyone in my family became accustomed to not talking to me or spending time with me. Consequently, whether my family sees me or talks to me today has no effect on them.

Further reading: The strange story of Mother’s Day

The other day I told my best friend, “I think I’m still institutionalized to some extent.” “That’s okay, you are healing at your own pace,” she replied. I was thinking what I always think when she says things like that, “It’s not okay.” I want to be normal. In my opinion, prison encourages anti-social behavior, and if you get released and you are still practicing those behaviors, then you are institutionalized. It’s as if the human mind has not adapted to the reality that you are no longer incarcerated and you have certain restraints that you might not have if you had never been locked up.

I know every family has its issues, but a prison sentence can literally destroy the family unit. It’s as if I’m dead to my family. They probably grieved my loss during my incarceration, and the fact that I’m home doesn’t seem to have registered with them. I know I suffered through anguish in being away from my family for 18 years, and I’m still struggling with what our relationship should be.

When you’re in prison, you can’t afford to allow yourself to feel the emotional pain of separation from your family every day, all day. At some point you have to just suck it up and do your time. You shut down your emotions in an effort to survive the imprisonment. The problem is that when you get home it’s not easy to turn that switch back on. The challenge is learning to feel again, learning to yearn for the things you once longed for.

This mother’s day I won’t see my mother, my children, or my siblings. I’ll be out of town, but if I were home I can’t imagine we would have a lavish celebration and bask in one another’s love. Things are different now. I’m focused on rebuilding my life. Everyone else is focused on trying to stay afloat. Sort of like when a loved one is incarcerated, life goes on for people in society when they have a loved one in prison. In turn the person in prison concentrates all of their efforts on mentally dealing with being in prison. That’s a situation that could break the average person.

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About Lashonia Etheridge-Bey

Lashonia Etheridge-Bey is a Public Speaker who can candidly and articulately speak to the consequences of youth violence, the effects of incarceration and the challenges of reentry into society. Read Lashonia's Full BIO Here 


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