I hope this article will help you at the very least feel
supported. I have written it to help you I trust that
it will give you information on how to cope when your partner is
in prison - from day one, but also but also that you find
On that fateful (first) day in court you are there 'supporting' your partner/spouse, yet you are in turmoil yourself. Nobody tells you what is going to happen, where you should be, what is expected of you, unless of course you are giving evidence.
Then there is that awful sense of guilt and shame. You dread the thought of bumping into anybody you know. What would they think? What would you say?
Right now you are unlikely to get your head around it all. You are likely to feel torn: what are you to believe? How do you handle the information about what your partner is accused of emotionally? How do you cope with what you have been told (if anything) and what you hear in court?
Just remember that supporting your partner/spouse doesn't mean that you are aligning yourself with the crime.
You are left the pick up the pieces. You are left dealing with the children and their reactions, the finances, family, friends - you name it - you are on your own with it. All that, whilst you are in shock and quite possibly feel completely traumatised yourself.
Now ... I am assuming here that you could ever have imagined your partner or spouse would have ended up in prison. These events have come completely out of the blue for you.So, I am hoping I can help you a little. If you understand and know how to deal with your own reactions to your partner's sudden incarceration you're likely to feel a little less out of control.
I'll also suggest some problem solving strategies to get you though the initial stages. So, hang on in there ...
That is totally understandable if you have just discovered that your partner has been found guilty of some (heinous?) crime. I don't know of course at what stage in the legal process your partner is, but I'll assume that you have only just been confronted with the fact that the person you were sharing your life with is now in prison.
All of a sudden, your life - as it was - is no more. Surely there has been a mistake, you might think. If not, who was that person you were living with? You are in shock, barely able to take it all in.
And now you're having to deal with all this:
lack of knowledge: where is he/she, will I hear from him/her, can I make contact, who can I ask?
having to tell your children, but barely able to comprehend what is happening yourself, you are at a loss of what to say to them
you don't want to tell anyone, including family and friends
yet you will have to decide who to tell, because suddenly you are all on your own - you do need someone to talk to and you may need help with the children
dealing with everyone's reactions, when you can barely cope with your own
Of course you feel traumatised. You have suffered a major crisis. You may find my page on Trauma symptoms (link further down) helpful.
You may find yourself wondering what on earth you should/could have done differently - as if you somehow are guilty too.
Many people in your position comment on their fear of bumping into people. They talk of their fear of using local services and shops. They scuttle around as if they themselves are guilty.
You might find yourself lying about what your partner is up to - at least initially. Perhaps you can get away with saying he/she is on a business trip, a course, a week away, etc. It feels particularly difficult when you find yourself lying to the very people you love - your children, your family, your friends.
I really want you to remind yourself that you are OK, that it is not your fault, you did not deserve this and it is really unfair!
Very likely you feel anxious, even if you would normally consider yourself to be strong and able to cope with just about anything. No wonder!
Here is what I can imagine may be going on for you.
You are worried about who is going to know that your partner/husband/wife is in prison
You are acutely sensitive to about what other people think of you and your family
You hurt for your children and worry about how it is going to affect your children - how they are going to cope, what they are having to face at school, how they are going to manage
You too feel a victim too - traumatised by all the revelations
You may feel you will be judged and found wanting
You may not at all sure what you 'should' be feeling about your partner, but you may be really worried about what he/she may be going through in prison
You may be worried about what the actual 'guilty' verdict will mean to the survival of your relationship/marriage
You are very likely to be worried about the financial implications of your partner's incarceration: loss of employment - his/hers and maybe yours with a consequent loss of your financial security and your home
I suspect you may recognise my description of a nervous breakdown (see link below).
That sense of shame you feel makes you reluctant to engage with other people within your local community and even family and friends. You may very likely want to hide away. Not knowing anyone else going through this situation you feel alone, yet desperately needy of comfort and reassurance.
Life goes on unchanged for others - they call, visit, ask for your help, your attendance, but you'd rather shy away, feeling 'on guard' all the time, fearful of giving yourself away. No wonder then if you are feeling totally isolated, lonely and depressed! See my page: Dealing with depression (link further down).
You will get through this though - somehow you will find the strength to carry on and life will settle down in some shape or form. Though you and your life will have changed forever, you will ultimately rebuild your life and find meaning and happiness in years to come. You will recover!
You maybe feeling terribly ambivalent after all you have heard in court and the guilty verdict.
You don't suddenly stop loving that 'person' you know wonder you ever really knew. Neither does he/she stop being a parent.
So, you turn up at the prison to visit - wanting an explanation, to be told it is all a mistake, part of you furious, yet questioning, needy, frightened, looking for reassurance.
However, now you are faced with:
No wonder you feel like a criminal! After all that you are led into a cold and clinical 'visits hall'. It all feels alien and degrading. Totally understandable then that you feel tearful, your children may cry and other people may be crying.
If at any time you are worried about your partner's mental state, worried that he/she may be feeling suicidal - do speak to the staff before you leave. Alternatively call the prison as soon as you get home.
Their feelings are likely to mirror those of yours. They too are likely to feel the shame that goes with having a parent in prison.
Doubtless you will take great care in who you take into your confidence.
However, do remember that someone you really trust is likely to have someone else who they really trust. That person too has a really good friend, whom they have always shared everything with. That person too trust the one friend they have known since childhood, whom they 'know' would never tell another soul, and so on ...
Very unfortunately you are likely to have to deal with:
There is nothing you can do about any of this, other than manage your own feelings around it. There will always be people who judge. Over time, whilst your partner is in prison, and after, you learn who to avoid and who you can trust - much faster than you would have done at any other time in your life.
You may feel that your family is serving a prison sentence too. There are so many changes to deal with so suddenly. It is as if someone has died, but worse than that - your partner is now an 'offender' - not something you are wanting to share. This means that unlike if he/she had died, it will require huge strength of character to ask for any support.
Here are some strategies to start you of:
Just remember - eventually this horrible time too will pass.
You may also be interested in:
|Natural sleep remedies
Adrenal fatigue syndrome
How to build your self-esteem
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