Lessons From My Journey
In February we presented our first community engagement seminar entitled “Why Me?”. It was a wonderful opportunity to share the reason why I started this organization in addition to answering a question that I am sure many children of incarcerated parents ask, “Why Me?”. I know that as a child, I presented this question to God and myself as I cried out for help in prayer for my situation. It wasn’t until I first shared my story to an auditorium of strangers, that my answer to “Why Me?” was revealed. I realized that I had experienced everything that I was supposed to experience in having incarcerated parents; in order to help, encourage, and even motivate others in the same or similar situation.
As I was chronicling my life experiences, I was able to capture some lessons from my journey and what other children of incarcerated parents can do to not repeat some of the errors that I made as a child and young adult. It is my hope that my experiences and the experiences of others help someone; so please share your experiences, comment or share this post. The more we can be transparent in our own personal struggles, the more we are able to help someone else cope.
Lesson 1. I internalized my parents’ actions and made it about me.
As a child there were times that i felt that my parents didn’t love me. I felt that if they loved me then they would stop doing the things they were doing to be sent to jail. I thought that if I was a good child, they would come home to me for good. That if I made good grades, they wouldn’t go to jail. That if I…if I…if I….
The truth of the matter is that there wasn’t enough if I’s to help my parents. I had to come to the realization that my parent’s actions were not about me. Their actions had nothing to do with their love for me or their desire to be my parent. There was nothing that I had done to cause them to make the decisions that they made. Their issues were about them and their journey; and as a child, I was not responsible for the challenges that they faced in life.
Lesson 2. I kept my thoughts and feelings bottled up inside of me.
Bottled thoughts and feelings will eventually explode and that’s exactly what happened with me. I didn’t talk to anyone and I didn’t have anyone to talk to about parents’ incarceration. It was something that we didn’t acknowledge in our family. No one asked how I felt or even gave me an opportunity to cry. I just dealt with everything through silence. Eventually that learned behavior of keeping my feelings bottled up led to anger outbursts.
If those that are reading this month’s blog learn nothing else, please understand that it is important to release your feelings in a positive way. There is nothing to be gained keeping your feelings inside of you. Share your thoughts to those that you trust and those that love you. Even if you have no one, you can journal or write letters. For caregivers and students, ask your school counselors about mentoring and how you can obtain a mentor. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need assistance. We aren’t meant to be on this journey alone without any way to express our feelings. I encourage everyone to seek out help.
Lesson 3. I became angry and bitter towards my mother.
When my mother went to jail for the final time, I decided that I wanted nothing to do with her. I became angry and bitter. I didn’t want to hear from her and I didn’t care what she had to say. I let this anger go on for about three and a half years and during that time my prolonged anger and hurt had manifested itself into depression. Carrying anger and bitterness inside of you changes you as a person. It cultivates anxiety, disrupts your meaning/purpose, and you bring it into your relationships with others.
The only way I was able to release the anger and bitterness towards both my parents was through forgiveness. Forgiveness will help you move away from your role as victim and enable you to release the control and power the offending person and situation has had in your life. As you let go of unforgiveness, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. If you are contemplating forgiveness it is key that you understand that forgiveness IS NOT for them – it is for YOU. Forgiveness is self-care.
Again it is my that that my experience helps someone. Our vision is to create a safe and nurturing space for children of incarcerated parents, so if you are in need of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com