Thursday, February 11, 2010

#20 Sunshine in a hell (retro)

Sunshine in a hell

This is a post for parents who have a son or daughter in prison. It does not matter whether they have been in for years, or if they just got sent. Today I am writing this because I get a heck of a lot of emails or pms from prison support sites or from my prison blogs about what their son or daughter is going through. I cannot possibly tell anyone what another person is going through; all I can do is share what I went through. But maybe in that I can help some of you understand your role in what they are going through.

You see, the funny thing (not ha-ha funny) is that lots of you punish yourself by thinking that you are not doing enough for them. Some of you punish yourself by thinking “what went wrong”.

In short, lots of you are beating yourselves over the head over this situation…let’s see if we can at least put a pillow between your head and the wall, so the impact isn’t so bad.

So, is it possible for a person to bring positive energy to a person who is in prison? That is kinda what I implied in the title. Sunshine in a hell. Now, did you notice how I worded it?

I said, “in A hell”…not HELL.

There is a difference you know. Prison is a form of hell, but let’s not fool ourselves…it isn’t THE HELL.

(for all you spiritual fanatics)

“Hell” in the dictionary is defined as “a place or state of extreme misery; something extremely unpleasant”. Now, I gotta tell you guys, I had to pause and think hard about prison being a hell, according to that description.

Not including the other Hell, prison is indeed a place of misery, a place of violence, a place of negativity. Go to any school and ask any kid if they want to go to prison, and I am sure no one is going to raise their hand and say “sure”.

So what we have to believe is that prison is a place no one wants to go. Yeah, I know you KNOW that, but follow me here, because your role in helping your loved one depends on what you really know and understand about prison.

Before it is a place of misery, it is first a place of punishment. Prison is the place where our legal system places those who break the law…


Hold on, let me finish. If you understand that, then you should know that one of the primary emotions any person in prison is going to hold is going to be shame or disappointment.

You see, if you are going to be that mom or dad that is going to help your loved one through this, you have to understand his or her feelings. Lots of times parents lose this because you are too close to him or her to see how they really feel.

If you are up to it, and if you are going to resolve to help your baby (I say that out of affection), then you have the task of bringing in sunshine in this hell that they live in. If you care about that person, then the difficulties of this task isn’t as important as the fact that your child is in prison.

And let’s settle this right now, what he or she did to end up in prison should not be a factor here. To the rest of the world it does matter, but if you are going to be a helpful force to that person’s rehabilitation, you have to shrug that off…

Lots of you are going to have problems with that.


“But I can’t ignore what my son did”

I am not asking you to. I am asking you to love him.

Folks, there are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to many things we can talk about when it comes to the nature of the crime, why he or she did it and all the details that the legal system interprets. But right now, I need you to focus as a mom or dad.

That is what you are anyway.

In order to bring that light, that positive energy, that faith or encouragement to that loved one in prison, you have to understand what your role is. Your role is not the judge, nor the jury, nor the executioner.

You gotta get past this before you can really be there for your loved one. And when you know your role in this, there is a greater resolve to help, rather than sulk all the time.

You have to be that ray of sunshine in a dark and dreary place.

Now get this, according to my dictionary (yep, I use it a lot folks) sunshine is defined as “sunshine directly from the sun, uninterrupted by clouds”.

Hmmm, there are some interesting details there, if you are willing to see it.

For you to be that “sunshine”, you have got to be willing to bring that hope to your loved one, with no interference. If there are clouds outside today, the direct sunshine does not get through. You still see LIGHT because the rays are reflecting off the clouds and everything else. But you all know the difference between a cloudy day and a clear day.

In the same manner, you have to be able to support your son or daughter in a way that is not impeded. But you can’t do that if you are still sulking and depressed every day of the week.

“But I can’t get over the fact that my son is in prison”

Well, I am not asking you to forget…maybe what you need to do is forgive.


(struck a nerve, didn’t I)

You know, our worries of a loved one in prison are based on many things, and maybe one of them is that even though that person is your son or daughter, you have not forgiven them in what they have done.

You ever think about that?

In order to truly be of a help to someone, you can’t have reservations or judgments about that person. For me to write here on any post or blog, I have to have a blind eye to the faults of other inmates…heck, I better since I used to be one.

But for parents, the same goes in triple. Can you honestly say you forgive your son or daughter.

Let’s stop right here for a second.

Back off this computer and say this to yourself….

“I forgive my child”

And say it like you MEAN it, heck, I won’t know if you really said it or not, but YOU will.

“What’s all this got to do with me helping my son”


You’re not going to be able to put your heart and soul into it if you can’t get past the forgiving stage. Until you get past that, you are always going to question what is going on; why they did what they did, how you felt that you failed and all the other self-punishing things that parents do.

You’ll spend more time crying over spilt milk.

In order to be effective in helping your son or daughter, you have got to step in this with a complete resolve that you are going to be that source of strength they need. Of course, you don’t have to, you can sit back and hope things get better…but we all know that things rarely get better when we do nothing.

If you can’t get past the forgiving stage, then you are like the sunshine that is blocked by the clouds. Light still gets through, but the beauty of the sunshine does not.

You get what I am saying here folks?

What are you willing to do to help encourage your son or daughter? What MORE will you be willing to do to help them?

To the novice reader of prison issues, this sounds foolish. I mean, who in their right mind would care about inmates? They did the crime, let them do the time. That’s what the legal system is for. Let them bust rocks for all we care.

Anyone can say that until someone they love falls into that hell.

Look, no one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. Some people make deliberate mistakes. Some people are true menaces to society and should be put in prison. I understand that every citizen of this country has a right to feel safe in public or in the comforts of their homes. That means that people choose to break the law, they must be punished. I get all that.

But for those who are in prison, there are those who love them. Millions and millions of parents right now are suffering because their son or daughter is in prison. What I write is for those who have loved ones in prison, and to hopefully encourage you guys to find strength to continue to help your son or daughter. Encourage them that you still love them, tell them that they are still your child. Let them know that you are there for them, and with them.

Don’t let them do their time emotionally alone.

Trust me folks, as a guy who spent time in prison, and as a guy who has written easily over 1000 pages of prison issues, few things are truer than the fact that guys in prison need your support. Prison is indeed a bad place, no two ways about it, but without your love and support for them, it can truly be a hell.

But you can bring in that sunshine, that hope, that faith, that encouragement to him. And all you have to do is something simple.

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