Prison Wives First Day In Prison, Blog by White Collar Advice Consultant, Rosanne Clausen
I have two goals with this blog:
- Help you handle your emotions and any depression in the most constructive manner possible.
- Help you take your power back and navigate this frightening, new uncharted territory.
Let’s jump right in… First things first, if you are dropping your husband off at federal prison, I want you to remember the inevitability of being an emotional wreck. The entire day will be emotional but it will be especially overwhelming on the way home.
How can you keep yourself safe?
Prion Wives Pro Tips:
-Get a trusted friend or family member to go with you as support and to drive home.
-Can you hire a driver? Take Uber or Lyft?
-If you have no other choice but to go by yourself: I suggest that you do not plan anything else the rest of the day. No appointments, no clients, no going into work for half the day.
-If you have children ask a trusted family member or friend to take them overnight or hire childcare for the rest of the day.
-Plan on the drive home taking a while. Pull over as many times as you need and only get back on the road when you are 100% certain you can safely continue to drive.
-Call Justin and/or me to help talk you through this. We are here for our clients during these times of need.
Prison Wives Tip To Managing Grief:
-Working with thousands of prison wives tells me coping with the loss of someone or something you love is one of life’s biggest challenges.
-Grief is a natural response to loss.
-You don’t have to lose someone to death in order to go through the grieving process.
-You’re experiencing a huge loss by “losing” your loved one to the federal prison system, along with that will come an emotional struggle.
-The pain of grief can also disrupt your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even think straight. These are normal reactions to significant loss. We will explore each of them.
-When I polled our clients on what a new prison wive should prepare for on that first day in federal prison the number one answer was: crying, crying and more crying (aka a grief response).
-Do not judge yourself for crying.
-Do not judge any feelings that arise. Each of your feelings is valid because it exists. Don’t ignore them, explore them. So you can work through and move past them.
-Crying is NOT a sign of weakness (there is often unacknowledged strength hidden within tears)
-Acknowledge your pain
-Tears are a NORMAL part of this process. They are cleansing. Let them flow.
-Everyone grieves differently, your grief will be unique to YOU.
-Find support/a support group
“Today is NOT the day to try to “(wo)Man up.”
It’s not the day to put on your “brave” face. It’s not time to “fake it” for the world. It’s the day to be gentle with yourself and feel your sadness. Let it out. (Story of what happened to me on NYE)
-You don’t need to “protect” your (adult) family or friends by putting on brave face today. Hiding your feelings will lead to a HUGE breakdown in the (most likely near) future. Allow them to support and help you in your time of need. On occasion, even Superwoman needs to hang up her cape and take off her boots.
**If you don’t cry: nothing is wrong with you! Yes, crying for prison wives is a typical response but it certainly isn’t the only response in this situation. You may have a different reaction and that’s okay. If you feel like you want to or have to cry, let it out. But if you express sadness in a different way, there is nothing wrong with you. Do what feels right and natural to YOU.
HOW TO FIND SANITY, STRENGTH IN THIS NEW, FRIGHTENING AND UNCERTAIN WORLD: WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL:
Recommended habits for prison wives that have been scientifically proven to help improve depression, anxiety and the impact of trauma are:
-Meditation, prayer, quiet time, journaling/blogging etc.
-Meditation apps (example: Headspace, Oprah & Deepak free 21 day meditation experiences found on www.chopracentermeditation.com)
-Youtube: search guided meditations
-Listen to music (any music that helps settle your mind)
-Yoga (Gentle, restorative)
-Sit in silence and connect with your breath (first 5 min and last 5 min of your day)
-Go to your place of worship
-Hike, nature walk
-Start with just 5-10 min/day
-Even if you’re a skeptic, commit to 7 days. Journal your feelings each day. After 7 days, note the impact. If it’s worth it to you and you notice a difference, continue.
-Exercise is scientifically proven to elevate your mood (endorphins aka “the feel good hormones” are released when you exercise)
-No equipment or gym needed, if that’s not your thing
-youtube workouts (free)
-on demand workouts (free)
-Beachbody programs (resource: www.fitbeautifullife.com)
-On your own: walk, dance, run
-For prison wife moms: Go to the park and actually PLAY with the kids instead of sitting on a bench with your head buried in the phone like usual. (Bonus: You’ll be the coolest mom in town.)
-Commit to trying this for 7 days (what do you have to lose). Move your body for at least 10 minutes. Journal at the end of the day. After a week, see what’s different.
-Bonus: Many PW’s use this time to transform their physiques while their husbands are gone. I can go into the thousands of reasons why leading a healthy lifestyle has saved my relationship and gotten me through this experience. In another video).
What makes you laugh? Who makes you laugh? (Story from the book “The Secret”, Breast cancer patient was deeply depressed and watched comedy every night. Despite being sad in the beginning she and her husband learned to laugh again. They laughed every day. She wound up quickly going into remission). Laughter is healing. It’s scientifically proven.
Loss of Appetite
-Most likely you’ll lose your appetite and won’t want to eat the first day/few days.
-Eat what you can: What can you stomach? Crackers? Toast? Soup? (Gentle foods)
-As much as you don’t want to, force yourself to eat, It will help keep your blood sugar stable. Your brain producing serotonin and your immune system operating as optimally as possible (which becomes compromised when you’re facing a stressful situation) — overall this will keep you from getting sick and help ease the depression. I’ve worked with too many prison wives who just stop eating! Food is essential!
-Prepare easy meals in advance. Take some time before he leaves, prepare foods and freeze them in single servings (or enough for meals if you’re feeding a family). When you’re feeling depressed and don’t want to cook/eat, these will save you. You can also prepare these with your spouse a few weeks before he leaves. (Its quality time together) My suggestion: Hearty, comfort food. Soups and stews are perfect. Crock pot meals.
-Meal/grocery delivery services (Blue apron, local meal services, door-to-door organics, Instacart, Ubereats etc.)
I recently read an article by a woman named Paula Stevens. She lost her son when he was 23 years old. One of her big tips (especially early on, around big events and holidays) is to try to comfort your grief without food. In the article she says, “…for those of us struggling with grief, it can become an emotional buffet of eating our way through feelings of sadness and loss. Indulging in treats [every once in awhile] is wonderful.Packing on the pounds because you’re trying to stuff down your misery is going to leave you feeling worse.”
-Try to comfort your grief in a healthy manner. If you find yourself constantly reaching for food — ask yourself if you’re truly hungry or trying to stuff down your feelings. Drink a glass of water. Distract yourself. Wait 5-10 minutes. Most likely the craving (for junky, comfort food) will pass.
Right now, you’re feeling vulnerable and you may be tempted to reach for vices. It’s easy to fall into the trap of over-drinking, relying on too many Rx meds, smoking cigarettes etc. Though these habits might mask your pain in the moment, the more you overindulge in your vices, the WORSE you’ll feel the next day…and in the long run. I promise, I know how it feels. I’ve been there. I lived on coffee, cigarettes and one apple with a Tbsp of peanut butter a day for close to 2 years. It wasn’t until I was trying on a pair of pants from the children’s section and I caught a glimpse of the hollow cheeked, gray skinned, sad-eyed, nearly unrecognizable woman — a shell of my former vibrant self — in the fitting room mirror, that I realized I needed to make a change. I needed to take control of my health. I quit smoking, and renewed my gym membership that week. I have not looked back since.
Sleeping Too Much
A symptom of depression is sleeping too much. Too many prison wives find themselves sleeping too much to cope. If you find yourself sleeping more than what is normal for your body (7.5-9 hrs/night is the doctor recommended range) or having a hard time getting out of bed (no desire to), you’re probably struggling with depression. Experts say to combat this, go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. This will keep your circadian rhythms (aka your body’s natural clock) on track. Forcing yourself to get up and performing normal, daily activities will help you beat the depression. If you are having trouble performing your normal daily activities beyond the first week of his surrender, please seek professional help.
Sleeping Too Little
You might be up tossing and turning the first night without him. Racing thoughts, stress, anxiety; they all have the potential to cause insomnia. This is normal the first few days. Tips to help you get to sleep:
-Essential oils (lavender, lemon, citrus, anti-stress oils. I like Young Living’s anti-stress blend)
-Chamomile tea (I like Yogi Brand “bedtime” tea)
-100% dark room (even the light on your cell phone, dvd player or digital alarm clock can keep you up)
-limit screen time at least an hour before bed (or wear orange colored, blue-light blocking glasses. I got mine on Amazon). Or use a blue blocking app (I use Flux on my Apple products and “Twilight” on my Android devices. They both have free versions.)
-Natural sleep supplements: melatonin, 5-HTP, passionflower, Magnesium (I like “Calm” brand. You can get from The Vitamin Shoppe or Amazon)
It’s completely normal to be in a fog, consumed with thoughts of where he is, what he’s doing, how he’s feeling, if he’s okay, if he misses you, when you’ll hear from him etc. Do not plan big events the first week that he’s gone. If necessary, take vacation time from work so you don’t have to worry about projects, meetings or having to hide your emotions in the office. I had a client who had to speak on the news and give a press conference three days after he left. She couldn’t get coverage and her boss said it was mandatory. The suggestions I gave her to help her get through:
-breathing exercise (alternate nostril breathing, 5-5-5 breathing, deep belly)
-caffeine (a little bit of coffee or a couple of pieces of high quality, low sugar dark chocolate)
Man’s Search For Meaning (a book I know Justin wrote about in Lesson From Prison) is a great book for all prison wives. – By Viktor Frankl (for you and to send to your loved one). It’s a “timeless formula for survival.” (the part about thoughts of his wife getting him through each day is consoling for us) From top book review on Amazon:
“If you’re in pain, read this book. If you’re scared, read this book. If you are lost, read this book. If you are happy, read this book. If you have time, read this book. If you don’t have time, read this book. Read this book, read this book.”
****PSA: If you’re feeling suicidal seek help immediately. IMMEDIATELY talk to someone you trust. In the US, call the suicide helpline: 1-800-273-TALK(8255).*****
-Corrlinks (in the future, we Justin and I will do a FAQ video on how to set up Corrlinks for all prison wives, How to download the app, How to get premium corrlinks, how to sign up for the email alerts etc)
-Phone system hook up (why it’s possible he might not call the first day)
-Visit schedule (what to expect, wear etc): How to get on his visit list
-How long it may take to hear from him (don’t freak out if it takes a few days)
-Its okay to feel relief that this is finally happening. That doesn’t make you insensitive or abnormal.
-You have a countdown!!!!
-Write, write, write.
I am proud to support all prison wives through this experience. If I can hep, please reach out at once. I am here to help!