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.


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



  • Reply
    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
    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

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

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  • Reply
    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
    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
      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
    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!


  • Reply
    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
    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

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