Coping with Stress when a Loved One is Incarcerated

Quick Summary:

  • It may help to talk to somebody(s) but the right somebody(s), who can actively listen and understand
  • Take time for yourself (even if it is 5 minutes), do some quick exercises, read or practice breathing exercises
  • Try and be social with positive people

NOTE:  This is a personal blog, any views or opinions represented in this blog belong solely to the FedPhoneLine staff.  WE ARE NOT Psychologists or Therapy Professionals, all data and information on these blogs is for informational purposes ONLY. In the comments section we are hoping that people can outline their experiences and foster communication that will assist others going through similar events.

When a loved one goes to jail/prison you may find yourself dealing with a range of emotions (anger, guilt, grief, betrayal etc.), staying in touch can be difficult and frustrating (as many of you already know!).  When you are on the outside looking in, it can be a devastating emotional experience, it’s something that many will not understand and most will go through alone.

We’ve outlined some tips that we think can help you.

2 is better than 1!

Find someone you can speak with about any feelings you have, but be wary of who you choose.  Some people simply do not understand the predicament you are in and will be less than sympathetic.  Common terms you may hear are:  “She/He never should have gotten themselves in that situation”, “You should just leave”, “You can do so much better.” and the list goes on and on, sometimes it may feel like you are also being judged!  We are hoping the comments below (we try not to censor the comments but we will if people are being unruly).

Your feelings are valid

You are allowed to feel the way you feel, this is an overwhelming experience!  Allow yourself time to get used to life without him/her (the hard part is that you may not get any time to explore your feelings because your life hasn’t been put on pause….which leads to some tough phone calls sometimes.).  Your loved one is inside and needs your support but YOU also need support and (in my opinion) should first make sure you are emotionally stable before assisting others.

Learn ALL you can!

We’ve learned that once people are a little more educated about the Justice system and jail/prison in general it eases stress.  Know how the phone system works (the FedPhoneLine website has a lot of information or send us an email at, how/when you can visit, what programs are offered within the institutions so that he/she can upgrade their mental or emotional skills.  It helps relieve stress if you know.

Stress Relief

Here are some exercises you can do quickly to help with stress relief (some of these are tougher with ‘busy mom’ schedules) try:

Take 5 Minutes out of your day:  In those 5 minutes close your eyes and clear your mind (don’t think about anything…’s actually pretty hard to do!) just take slow deep breaths in and out and center yourself.

Exercise:  A good way to relieve stress is exercising, just a few pushups and sit ups, it is kind of the same as the closing your eyes exercise because you can shut your mind off and just focus on the exercise.  Try yoga!

Keep a Journal:  If there is no one to talk to sometimes it’s nice to put those thought on paper to get them out into the open.

Do something social:  Eat lunch with a friend or chat on the phone, play some Playstation (nothing says stress relief like Call of Duty!).  Chat with a support group.

We hope this information was helpful, please write down in the comments how you deal with stress and any tips you can provide to others.