How to deal with your feelings and emotions and visiting your partner in prison

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

If you're facing the prospect of visiting your partner in prison, I'm so glad you've found my page. I really hope my advice will help you discover how you can cope with the situation. I promise you - you can get through this.

Just before we think about the prison visit itself, let's have a look at some of the ways you might be feeling if your partner has recently been sent to prison. (If you've landed here first, do also be sure to read Part 1 of this article.)

Your reactions

To help you understand how you're feeling, are are some of the things you may be feeling following on from your partner's imprisonment.

Feeling traumatised

Of course you feel traumatised - this is very natural. You've suffered a major crisis. You may find my page on Trauma Symptoms helpful. Don't worry - I'll be here when you come back.

A sense of guilt and shame making it even harder to cope?

You may find yourself wondering what on earth you should or could have done differently - as if somehow you 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's up to - at least initially. Perhaps you can get away with saying he or she is on a business trip, a course, a week away etc. But it can feel particularly difficult when you find yourself lying to the very people you love - your children, your family and 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's really unfair!

Feelings of guilt are appropriate if you have indeed done something wrong. Shame is what other people are doing to you. Don't you take that on board - you have more than enough to cope with at the moment!

I recommend you download a self-hypnosis track - one that feels just right for you - from my page Self-Hypnosis FAQ.

Ever-present sense of anxiety and impending doom

I'd imagine you feel anxious... even if you'd normally consider yourself to be strong and able to cope with just about anything. But it's no wonder!

Here's what I can imagine may be going on for you.

  • You're worried about who's going to know that your partner is in prison
  • You're acutely sensitive about what other people think of you and your family
  • You hurt for your children and worry about how it's going to affect them - how they're going to cope, what they're having to face at school, how they're going to manage
  • You too feel a victim, traumatised by all the revelations
  • You may feel you will be judged and found wanting
  • You might not be at all sure what you 'should' be feeling about your partner, but you could be really worried about what they may be going through in prison
  • You may be worried about what the actual 'guilty' verdict will mean for the survival of your relationship or marriage
  • You're very likely to be worried about the financial implications of your partner's incarceration: loss of employment - his/hers and maybe yours too, with a consequent loss of your financial security and your home

There are some really effective self-hypnosis downloads that will help sooth your mind.

Determination gives you the resolve to keep going despite the roadblocks ahead of you. Denis Waitley

Unable to speak to anyone - feeling isolated

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 can make you feel alone, yet desperately in need of comfort and reassurance.

Life goes on unchanged for others - they call, visit, ask for your help and your presence... but you'd rather shy away. You may feel 'on guard' all the time, and fearful of giving yourself away.

If you're in this situation, it's no wonder that you're feeling totally isolated, lonely and depressed. I'd love to help you to feel better by explaining how you can overcome depression on my page Dealing With Depression.

You will get through this though - somehow you'll 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 world and find meaning and happiness in years to come. You will recover - I know you can do it!

Prison visits

You maybe feeling terribly ambivalent after all you've heard in court, and after the 'guilty' verdict.

You don't suddenly stop loving that person you now wonder you ever really knew. Neither does he or she stop being a parent if you have children together.

You might visit the prison wanting an explanation, and to be told it's all a mistake. Part of you might be furious, yet you're also questioning everything and feeling needy, frightened and looking for reassurance.

However, now you're faced with:

  • long queues with people who appear all too 'carefree' about the situation
  • being subjected to security checks
  • having to ensure searches, including your hair and mouth
  • a sniffer dog deployed to detect illegal drugs
  • CCTV cameras

No wonder you feel like a criminal! After all that you're led into a cold and clinical 'visits hall'. It all feels alien and degrading. It's totally understandable, then, that you feel tearful. Your children may cry, and others around you may be crying too. 

7 ways to help you cope with prison visits

  1. Once you're familiar with the routine, you can prepare yourself better for it. Imagine a protective 'veil' around you
  2. Remind yourself that in an hour or two you'll have 'survived' again and can focus on problem solving in your daily life
  3. Arrange to see someone you trust immediately afterwards
  4. Talk to someone from the voluntary support agency in your country (see links below)
  5. Use a breathing technique to calm and 'ground' yourself.  Focus on a long slow out-breath and the movement of your abdomen as you breathe calmly in and out. Notice any thoughts, but let them go as you focus again on your breathing. Keep doing that. Practice at home - you'll become better and better at that the more you practice.
  6. Bring with you a tissue with a few drops of a lovely calming essential oil. Use one you're unlikely to come across once you no longer need to go through this whole drama (in other words - NOT lavender!)
  7. Remember though that you won't be able to take anything with you to the visiting area.

If at any time you're worried about your partner's mental state - particularly if you're worried that he or she may be feeling suicidal - do speak to the staff before you leave.  Alternatively you can call the prison as soon as you get home.

What about other people...?

I imagine you might be dreading the thought of having to talk to other people about your partner being in prison. How will they react? What will they say? Hop over to Part 3 on How to Cope with Your Partner Being in Prison for my advice on this, together with my list of things you can do to help yourself when you're coping with your partner in prison.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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