The Prison Wife's Tale- Frances Russo,RN,BSN,MA
Having a husband in prison is a stigma in our society. However it is possible to cope and get through this difficult time in your life. Let me help you along the way and give you a few tips.
I myself am a "Prison Wife." My husband has been in the prison system for the past 22 months. He was first in a minimum security unit, a place called "THE FARM, " with open doors, and no barbed wire. Now, he is in a half-way house, hoping to come back home the summer of 2005.
The "Prison Wife" is the forgotten one, as she waits at home for her husband. Our society takes care of the sick, the dyimg, the homeless, but the prisoner's wife is alone and forgotten.
She is faced with insurmountable problems....financial,emotional, psychological, social, stigmatization, health problems to face alone, children to take care of. She keeps the household "together," until her husband comes home. She works, pays the bills, pays the mortgage or rent, the car payments, insurances. She takes care of the children, repairs for the house, and just about everything else under the sun. Holidays and birthdays come and go. She is alone and lonely, most often faced with depression.
Most find it difficult to even face another day. She lives in hiding because she is afraid the neighbors may find out. So she lies and says he is on a "business" trip, to protect herself...after all, the neighbors would be shocked to know a criminal's wife lives next door to them. And, what does she tell the children? No one wants to let their child play with a criminal's child.
When her husband leaves for prison, the wife goes through a period of "grieving." She goes through the same "grieving process" that a widow goes through. The only difference is that the widow can eventually move on, while the prison wife cannot. The Prison Wife is a "wife," without a husband. She cannot go out and socialize, and it is difficult to make new friends, as she feels she is being "unfaithful" to her husband.
After a certain amount of time (months or even years), it is acceptable in our socity for the widow to step out, and start dating and even re-marry. The Prison Wife who is faithful and dedicated to her husband does not have this option....some women wait years for their man to return...10 , even 20 or more years.
There are close to 2 million prisoners in our country....that makes me wonder just how many wives and loved ones are left behind and forgotten. We think about the prisoner, but never, ever, think about those left behind.....the wives, the children, the mothers, the girlfriends, to name a few. Those loved ones, who did not commit a crime, except the crime of "loving a criminal." They did not commit a crime, and yet they are punished.
When their husband goes to prison, they are not notified by the prison system where their husbamnd is. I believe there should be some notification system in this country. The wife must sit and wait, until her husband is able to place a collect call to her.
There should be support systems in this country for prison wives. There should be follow-up programs for families of the incarcerated, to see how they are coping.
I will now give you some tips on how to get through this period of your life. It is from my own personal experience, and I hope it can help you...........after all, just remember, you are not alone..........there are so many of us out there experiencing the same feelings and emotions...the same problems.
"Ways To Cope"
1. Take one day at a time........Do not think too far in advance. Try to get "through one more day."
2. Plan small projects for each day, and try to reach a goal. For instance, I put all our photos in photo albums, during the first few weeks of my husband's incarceration. When that project was complete, I started cleaning out drawers and closets.
3. Organize tour life............I re-organized bills and mail, using folders and envelopes, and I kept logs, writing everything down.
4. Keep pictures of your husband around the house....I had pictures in every room. I even had one posted on the refridgerator door.
5. Join a church group. I started baking cakes for the monthly cake sale. I enjoyed doing it, and felt I was contributing something to society.
6. Get involved...acquire hobbies. Knitting, needle-point, gardening, writing, keeping a diary....anything. just do something, even if you force yourself to do it. As time goes on, it will get easier, and you will begin to enjoy it. I planted an "Angel Garden," outside in the yard, with angel statues, and flowers. I also began writing poetry, stories and letters to the editor. I also began writing a journal, which became a very important part of my life.
7. Keep in close contact with your husband....Accept phone calls (if you can afford it, as prison phone calls are extrememly expensive), send your husband letters, cards,magazine and newspaper clippings, and computer print-outs of thingd that interest him. Send him pictures (old and new)...Men in prison love to look at pictures from home. It helps them from becoming homesick. My husband has almost 100 pictures that he keeps in photo albums, and loves to share with the inmates, and show them our family and home. If I change something around in the household,or buy anything new, iI take a picture and send it to him, so he always feels connected to our home. I also tkae pictures of the pets, the garden, and the cars.
8. Keep a notebook near the phone at all times. Jot down things you want to discuss with your husband when he calls. Remember, those are 15 minute calls, and there is a lot to say in a short period of time, so get organized beforehand.
9. Cry when you have to, but also try to stay focused. Do not be torn apart by the prison system. You are still a person, and a wife...and you need to be supportive to your husband.
10. Try to stay healthy. Eat right, avoid junk food and alcohol. Exercise. Try walking. After all, you want to be physically fit when your husband comes home!
I hope this article will be of some help to the wives and loved ones of prisoners, as they await their loved one while he is in prison.
My name is Frances Russo,RN,BSN,MA. I am a retired Registered Nurse,who is now legally- blind , and does free-lance writing, as a hobby. I enjoy writing short stories for magazines and poetry. During my life, I enjoyed education, and international travel, having travelled to 28 countries. I've lived in Manhattan, California, Las Vegas, and New Jersey. My husband is currently within the prison system, and I enjoy writing a journal, which has become quite popular. It is called "Reflections Of A Prison Wife." Please visit my web-site!
Over 5800 have read my journal, leaving comments and identifying with it. They find strength in my journal. I have recently been interviewed by 2 newspapers, and my story will soon be published , along with photos (ASBURY PARK PRESS AND THE PRESS OF ATLANTIC CITY). My journal is the basis of a book I am writing.
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