There is something I rarely go into detail about. Something I’ve never blogged about. Something I’ve only shared with my closest friends and family members. It’s taken years for me to even get used to the fact that my dad is incarcerated. While I don’t feel comfortable going into details about why he’s locked up (mostly out of respect for my mom and siblings), I finally feel brave enough to share about my experiences, feelings, and heartaches involving my dad’s incarceration.
I know so many people that knew my dad are going to read this and be shocked. You knew him as a pastor, a musician, a best friend, a son, a writer, a professor, a husband, a father, a grandfather. I’ve never said any of this publicly, but I want you all to know… I miss him terribly. He was my best friend and my biggest cheerleader. He believed in me when no one else did. He understood me and listened to me. I love him and will never stop loving him. I will never stop praying for him.
My dad has been in jail since January 2015. He is still awaiting trial or getting ready to sign a plea, I’m not quite sure because I’ve chosen to keep my distance from the entire situation. My mom and siblings know to not talk to me about him or update me on his case. I’ve never attended one of his many hearings. I don’t participate in video visits. I can’t. Physically and emotionally, I’m unable to participate or even process what has occurred. He’s looking at 20 years in prison and the fact that I won’t be able to give my dad a hug again until I’m in my 40’s makes me sick to my stomach.
To anyone who has a parent in jail or prison, there are five things I want you to know…
Your parent’s crimes (or alleged crimes) and mistakes do not define you. So many sleepless nights have been spent wondering why my dad would do this to me, to my mom, to my family, to my kids. And I’ve come to the realization that he didn’t do this to us. He did this to himself.
There’s nothing wrong with loving someone who is in jail or prison. Loving them doesn’t mean you agree with them. Loving them doesn’t mean you encourage their behavior. Loving them doesn’t even mean you need to talk to them, if you don’t want to. I’ve had so many feelings of intense guilt, stemming from the fact that I still love my dad. But you know what? No matter what, he is my father and always will be. I can’t change that, nor do I want to. If he spends every last day locked up, I will still love him.
There’s nothing wrong with being mad. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve been told that being angry and hurt isn’t the answer and that I’m less of a Christian for having those feelings. I’ve taken so many steps towards forgiveness, but the actual act of forgiveness still hasn’t happened…years later. And it probably won’t happen for a long time. It’s not this magical overnight process. I’m not going to wake up one day and poof! all is forgiven. It’s a long, painful process.
There will be times when you just need your mama or daddy. I’ve been through a lot. Most people have. That’s life… You go through bullshit that no one should ever have to go through. The fact that my dad missed my son’s birth was excruciatingly painful. But the fact that he missed my son’s diagnosis, surgery, recovery, and more is just devastating. Those are times I needed him. And he wasn’t there. Thankfully, I have a great support system of people who were there for me and my family during those times. I will forever be grateful to those who have stepped up for my family.
You aren’t alone. I’ve struggled so much with the feeling that I am alone. But I’ve found refuge in my husband (who’s biological dad isn’t in his life), in my siblings (who are going through the exact same thing as me, obviously), and others who have a parent in jail. Knowing that there are people in similar situations and talking to them about our experiences, feelings, thoughts and struggles helps immensely.
I wish I had some secret serum that makes it all better. I don’t. I am struggling just as much as the next person. But there are a few things that make me feel a lot better and help me to see the beauty in the midst of an awful situation.
- It could be worse. There are so many people who have lost their dad forever. My dad is still a phone call away.
- This life is temporary. Trials and tribulations will come and go. And this life will be over before we know it. But what comes next is what we’ve been waiting for our whole lives.
- God gives us what we can handle. No explanation needed for that one.
I’ve held Romans 8:28 close to my heart, “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Thank you for letting me share this piece of my heart with you all.