Incarceration and Loss
Contrary to popular thought, when a loved one is incarcerated the effects of the incarceration extend beyond that individual on to their spouses, children, and other family members as well as their community. Consequently, the loved one and their family may be confronted by several challenges both while the individual is incarcerated as well as when they attempt to re-enter into society. During incarceration and the reintegration process, the individual and their family might be challenged by shame or social stigma associated with incarceration, which may then create emotional strain within the family as well as emotional stress for each individual. There may also be several questions that the individual along with their family may be attempting to answer: How can I keep my family together? Will life return to how it was before? When will this experience truly be over?
Noted below is a group of common feelings or reactions of an individual who is/has been incarcerated, which may also be experienced by their family members.
You may experience …
- Feelings of shame or embarrassment
- Feelings of isolation
- Feelings of depression
- Feelings of anxiety
- Feelings of anger
- Difficulty in communicating your feelings
- Family conflicts
- Avoidance or social withdrawal
You may feel …
- Loss of time while loved one is/was incarcerated
- Loss or lack of connection between family members
- Loss of connection within the community
When you’re ready …
- Seek out support networks like individual therapy, group therapy, and family counseling or those who can provide you with support
- Talk with family members and allow for open and honest communication in order to strengthen family relationships.
- Discuss your concerns with your religious/spiritual advisor
- Allow yourself to process your feelings of anger, isolation, and anxiety remembering that these are normal and common reactions to having a loved one incarcerated.
- Look for opportunities in the community that will strengthen or rebuild positive connections within the community