We have discussed many ways you can help your inmate to feel supported and to maintain the best health possible during their incarceration. Yes, it is extremely important to stay connected with your loved one while they are dealing with the stresses of being in prison! However, it is just as important for an inmate’s family members and friends to seek their own support. In today’s society, there is such a stigma attached to having a loved one in prison it can be difficult to find others who can relate to your struggle.
Strength in Numbers
While your incarcerated loved one can provide some comfort for you through their letters, phone calls and in-person visits, they also have their own issues to deal with. Finding other outlets can help you to be stronger and more helpful to your inmate and create a better relationship for both of you. Reaching out to others reminds you that you’re not dealing with this situation alone. It provides a source of strength for you to draw from and feel more empowered.
In many cities, there are groups that meet in person made up of families who have incarcerated loved ones. It isn’t unusual to meet others who have similar situations. A lot of insight and perspective can be gained by listening to stories from other family members. In some cases, friendships can even be formed. One way to find these gatherings is through sites such as meetup.com.
For those who are unable to find local groups, there are other outlets. For instance, you can check out one of the many books that have been written by those who have served time in the prison system, or by their family members. You may find comfort and support in reading about others’ personal experiences. Quite possibly, one or more of the anecdotes or situations described will ring familiar with you.
There are so many options online today for finding like-minded people, including those who have an incarcerated loved one! A quick internet search will yield at least a handful of groups specifically for wives, husbands, and family members of those in prison. Some of these groups even have discussion rooms specific to particular states, providing a form of “local” interaction. Another online option is to find members-only private groups on social media pages.
If all else fails, start your own online support group! One of the most common complaints heard within the inmate family community is that there are so few resources for inmates’ family members. If resources are short in your area, get involved and get one started! Sometimes being a friend is the best way to make one.
Make a Difference
For some family members, their stress relief is found in finding ways to make a difference for our incarcerated population. There are numerous advocacy groups that rely on volunteers for support. You can locate groups that advocate for inmate physical and/or mental health, fair and ethical treatment of inmates, conditions within facilities, and many other topics.
These groups exist on national, state, county and local levels. In many cases, there are in-person or online informational sessions available to the public to raise awareness about specific issues within the legal system. Actively participating in one or more can provide a healthy outlet for venting frustrations with the system and could even lead to action being taken – a much better use of your time and energy than simply being upset!
Talk it Out
For some, nothing helps to relieve stress and anxiety more than just talking through it. In some states, there are professional practices that provide low-income families or financially-compromised households with individual or family counseling services at a reduced rate, or sometimes free of charge. This can also be helpful for children who have incarcerated parents as an outlet to express their frustrations in a healthy way. Rather than one-on-one counseling, some prefer to engage in therapy through open group sessions. Try a few online searches to see if any of these resources are available in your area.
Here’s a quick review of the ways families and friends of inmates can seek support of their own:
- Read a book written by a former inmate or their family members
- Find a community group for inmate families in your local area
- Search for an online group of like-minded people
- Become a member of a social media group for wives/husbands/loved ones of inmates
- Create your own in-person on online support group to help others
- Join or volunteer with an advocacy group who support the incarcerated population and their families
- Seek cost-reduced or free individual or group therapy
By finding your own network of support, you can become stronger and better equipped to help your incarcerated love one. Doing this in addition to setting aside just a few minutes each day to engage in an activity for yourself can make a world of difference in the stress and anxiety you experience during your loved one’s incarceration. It can also empower you and create a sense of being heard and understood, giving you much-needed energy to keep your relationship going strong with your inmate.