Family

An Open Letter To Anyone With A Parent In Jail

August 23, 2016

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.

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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.


an open letter to anyone with a parent in jail or prison

Comments

comments

  • Reply
    vrsokic
    August 24, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    This is so good my friend. I’m so sorry you have to carry this burden. The sin in our family greatly affects our lives too and it’s just not easy. My Dad was incarcerated over and over again as a child and into my teen years. He was a drug addict and put us through hell. He missed out on most of our lives and sadly, my sister has followed in his footsteps. He died about 7 years ago I think, and I am so glad I was mature enough in my faith to face him not long before he died to forgive him. Mostly for my sake as he still couldn’t accept full blame. I am praying that you too, will be able to have some type of closure when it is time. I’m praying for you friend! <3

    • Reply
      Aaria?
      September 22, 2018 at 6:50 am

      Thank you for this Bethanie❤ I really needed to hear that, thanks again for sharing

  • Reply
    When They're Hard to Love
    August 25, 2016 at 5:31 am

    […] friend Bethanie from The Garcia Diaries really inspired me to share my story, after I read her Open Letter to Anyone With a Parent in Jail. Reading how vulnerable she was and how open she is about her situation gave me the push I finally […]

  • Reply
    Leslie Lemmon
    August 26, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Bethanie – you may not remember me, but I had the privilege of being present at your birth, as a support to your mom and dad. Since you all left the Eureka area we’ve lost touch, but we continue to love your parents and treasure our friendship. Your post was indeed a shock, but thanks for being brave enough to share it – as much as my husband Scott and I would rather not know any of this about your dad and as painful as that knowledge is, it is good to know – if only so that we can pray. So, thank you. You’ve grown up to be an amazing young lady

  • Reply
    Rebecca Lopez
    August 29, 2016 at 11:47 am

    Love this! I had no idea you were going through this, we loved your Mom & Dad both when attending Life Community. You’re Mom always supported my site and had the nicest things to say. I completely know how it feels to have those we love in Jail, my hubby spent almost half a year in jail during my first pregnancy and during the first month of our son’s life. While the time is in no means the same that your Dad is facing it was rough to be alone and to forgive him for his mistakes.

    I love that you’ve shared this and are helping others see that forgiveness doesn’t come easy, it’s a work in progress and that with time it will happen. I’ve loved watching you grow your blog, great job girl!

  • Reply
    "Dear Dad... Or at least that’s what I used to call you." | The Garcia Diaries
    October 11, 2016 at 10:23 am

    […] I’m welcoming my friend Katelyn to The Garcia Diaries. I have done my best to be honest and open about the struggles I’ve faced with my own father. A few weeks ago, Katelyn shared a status update on Facebook that I’m sure was very hard to […]

  • Reply
    An Open letter to Anyone With a Parent In Jail | I Literally LOL
    October 24, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    […] post originally appeared on The Garcia Diaries, but has been edited for I Literally LOL’s […]

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    January 21, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Bethanie, I know some of what you’re going through. My dad went to jail back in the summer of 1999, shortly after my high school graduation. He was in prison almost 7 years before he passed away from a heart attack. Yesterday marked ten years that he’s been gone. It’s very frustrating when your dad can’t walk you down the aisle, help solve life’s problems, or meet your little girl because of the circumstances. Something that I have learned as the years have gone by is to depend on my Heavenly Father because He will never leave me or fail me. He is always there for His children.

  • Reply
    Elaine Smith
    April 26, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    It is a good post. I disagree with a few things you stated in my situation, but that is because not every situation is the same. I think the guilt of wishing your dad was not still alive can be worse, He is a phone call away, but I wish he wasn’t. I live knowing he is alive, in prison, and feel guilty that I wish he were dead. You see, when someone you love, (and yes, I still love him) has raped your siblings, destroyed their lives with his abuse, and it fills your life’s with shame that you are related to him. People look at you, and judge you. They judge you for being related to him. They judge you for not speaking to him. They claim you are not being forgiving. They ask, “who were his victims?”, “how is your dad doing?” And other inappropriate questions. You wonder how it will affect your children, his grandchildren, and their relationships in the future. “Oh yeah, my grandpa is in prison. Why? Well, he raped my aunts, abused my uncles and did it while leading a church ministry.” So, yes, there are worse things than him being still alive. The daily torment that his victim saw live with, is worse.
    Yes, I still care about him. I miss him and I am angry that he decided to choose to destroy our lives with his choices. But I forgive him and am not letting his choices define me. I will always love him, but I will also always hate what he did.

    • Reply
      Bethanie Garcia
      April 26, 2017 at 8:46 pm

      I agree with every single thing you said and I am so sorry!!! I wish you the best, love.

  • Reply
    shayla
    May 4, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    So my dad is a little crazy. He’s abused me and my mom, and he takes drugs. My mom died of an overdose when I was in kindergarten. I am now 13 and in 7th grade. I live with my aunt and uncle, and I am living a great life with two sisters, 4 dogs, and one cat. We always have fun over the summer, and I am very glad that I don’t have to go through that anymore. I hope that all the people who are going through similar situations with realize that they have a whole life ahead of them. Live life to the fullest and don’t let certain things get to you so much that you feel like everything is your fault. I always thought it was my fault my dad was abusing me and my mom. I thought I did something that caused him to want to hurt us. Now everything is great, and I don’t get as depressed about it.

    • Reply
      serenity
      February 18, 2018 at 1:23 am

      Aw Shayla, I am around your age currently, and I understand completely. With a mother who is currently in prison due to a variety of things (including drugs), I get that it’s overwhelmingly difficult. My mom decided she wanted to up and leave my family one day, right after my birthday. She left and came back once and then left again, so finally my father decided she wasn’t going to be allowed around me nor my sister. I became trapped in a huge, elongated depressive episode, lasting months and with me in an overall terrible mood and a small will to live. I was no longer allowed to see my half-brother, my whole side of my mother’s family, and talking to anyone about the situation took so much strength and it was usually extremely uncomfortable. I began to see silver linings, like the fact I wouldn’t have to see my abusive stepfather anymore, I wouldn’t have to live in basic slums and never have anything to eat. Sure, I’d leave behind animals and a large part of my family, but I have a life to live. I’m now an activist for many things, I live in a nice house with my grandmother, father and sister, and I feel better now. Again, I do get a bit depressed about it sometimes, but I push through those. I am so glad you are feeling better now too, and I hope anyone who sees either of our comments realizes we’ve both gone through things similar to them and we have pushed through.

  • Reply
    Kara
    January 5, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    I’m so sorry you had to go through this. In 2013, I found out my father not only cheated on my mom, but kept it hidden for years. I had so much anger sadness, shame, and guilt. At one point I was even contemplating going by my mom’s maiden name. So many things ran through my mind and I had many sleepless nights. Thankfully, things are getting better, I hope they will for you too.

    • Reply
      Bethanie Garcia
      January 9, 2018 at 1:25 pm

      Thank you so much, friend. It’s so hard, but nice to know I’m not alone!

      Xo

  • Reply
    serenity
    February 18, 2018 at 1:16 am

    As someone with a parent in prison currently, I understand. It’s hard, it really is, and I’ve gone through so many ups and downs within this whole experience. I too choose to keep my distance, I don’t speak about it and nobody speaks to me about it, knowing I get quite upset. I’ve chosen to pretend it just isn’t a part of my life, like my mother was never a part of my life. It’s difficult, and even after all she’s done I won’t stop loving her. Loving her has made me feel guilty because why would anyone love anyone who’s done enough to land themselves in prison? But, like you said, I don’t need to agree with someone to love them, even if my whole being is trying to stop me. Beautiful work, Bethanie.

  • Reply
    G
    March 15, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    Me and you we have something in common. My story and and your story is the same.

  • Reply
    5 Truths About Having An Incarcerated Parent | The Garcia Diaries
    April 12, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    […] years ago, I wrote an open letter to anyone with a parent in jail. To this day, it’s one of my most-read posts and the most googled article I’ve written. […]

  • Reply
    Kylie rutoskey
    May 4, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    From what I remember and what I’ve been told my mom got pregnant with me at the age of 17 and had me at 18. My biological fathers name is Kyle and from what I understand he cheated on my mom during her pregnancy with me. My mom began seeing my now step dad , Doug. When I was about 16 months old my biological dad was aressted with possession of narcotics and robbery. I remember visiting my real dad at a tire shop he worked at. He’d always have candy and a juice waiting for me. I didn’t understand the whole dad situation at the time. My dad got locked up a few months after. My mom then became pregnant with my step dads baby, the baby sadly was a stillborn though. Once I was 3 my whole world changed forever. My mom became pregnant again by my step dad. On 7.5.07 I had a baby brother. In first grade my step dad finally adopted me. I remember him and my mom brought cupcakes to my class and we celebrated. I didn’t understand why we were celebrating though, I still didn’t get the whole dad thing. 5.28.09 rolls around and now I have a baby sister. So fast forward to about the end of 2017, I was 12, brother was 9, and my sister was 7. We ended up moving into these apartments. At first everything was perfect, I even got my own puppy and first phone. Once middle school rolled around things changed drastically for me. I’ve never ever gotten in trouble but this one day my step dad found out I was talking to strangers on musical.ly so of course my phone was taken and I had to delete the app. Towards the end of 7 grade I got a boyfriend. He was 15 I was 13. He drove w/o a license , owned guns , smoked , and was in a gang. I see my parents concern though. So I got grounded for about 6 months for this. During those 6 months things changed. My parents argued a lot. My mom started taking pills and my step dad drank a lot. The only person I had during this time was my bestfriend Kristin but we always argued over stupid things. Summer rolls around and I had a school trip to kings island so of course I got my phone back. Once I got back from kings island I went to my grandparents for about a month. I then went to spend ONE night with my friend Peyton but that “ one day “ turned into a week. Then Payton’s mom had informed me my parents might divorce. I thought nothing if it because they always said that. Mind you Peyton was more like a cousin then friend to me. So her family let me stay with them for about 3 weeks. Then I went to stay with my step dads mom because she had a daughter my age I was super close with. One day my step dad came their drunk but crying, I was confused I then figured out the divorce was for real this time…. well I thought. We talked about visits and all that good stuff. So me and my dads younger sister went to stay with my uncle for a night cos that’s were my step dad was gonna stay. We bought him an air mattress and everything. Remember how I told you I got a puppy in 2017? That dog was my bestfriend well still is to this day. She’s a great Dane and I love her with everything in me. Well my uncle has 2 Great Danes and their my dogs sisters. Well my dad brought my dog over there and she attacked the other Danes. I was so upset. Then a day or two rolls by and my step dads mom gets a phone call from my mom…. the neighbors that lived below us has a pit bull. Their pitbull attacked my moms boxer. So my dad of course rushes over there. And … my parents made up. That really broke me because they just put all that stress on me for no reason. Anyways 8 grade rolls around , let’s just say I was a bad kid. Remember my bestfriend Kristin? Me and her ended up fist fighting at a homecoming football game. I miss her so much but I say I don’t. We had this bond that can’t be replaced. Now here’s the twist my step dad ALWAYS said if someone gets in your face or hits you first beat their ass!!!! My brother has gotten into over 10 fights. That was my first fight and he grounded me for defending myself…. I was confused. He then took away my makeup privileges. If I was caught w makeup on I got whooped. I started to realize he didn’t like me. This hurt me In many ways, fast forward to mid 8th grade I got fingered in class and got caught so I was forced to switch communities. Then I got caught sending nudes. Got my phone taken and my dad constantly called me nasty, hoe, disappointment , Thot , etc… so about a week after that I got into a fight w a girl named Jenna because she continued to send my nudes around and talked about me. So my parents pulled me out of the school in march mind you school ends in May so it was pointless. So my mom got back on pills recently and my dads a drunk. A LOT MORE HAS HAPPENED !!!!! I don’t feel comfortable sharing them and this story is already way to long. Let’s just say my mom tried forcing me to meet my half sister / biological dad. I refused but she insisted so my step dad hid me and she said he kidnapped me. So my mom has this mindset that I hate my biological dad. He’s in jail right now for many things …. including murder💔. Tonight I decided I wanna meet him. Before I do I HAVE to get my mom out of this toxic relationship with my step dad. I’ll be a freshman in August. I’m moving out by 18 and plan on starting a family by age 20. I can’t focus on my mom once high school starts. My focuse will be school. I need to help her while I can. ALSO MY MOMS DAD IS A DRUGGY RIGHT? TELL ME WHY HE HAD A BABY W A DRUGGY STREET GIRL AND MY MOM HAD TO ADOPT HER LITTLE BROTHER. MY STEP DAD LOVES THIS BABY MORE THEN ME. ME AND MY STEP DAD HAVE NO RELATIONSHIP. I CANT EVEN LOOK AT HIM YET HE “ LOVES “ ME IDK WHAT TO DO.

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