Note from Alexis: This is a guest post from Jim and Jolyn Armstrong of The FOTA Project.
Finding the Eye of the Storm After A Loved One Is Arrested: 3 Tips for Getting Through
I’ll never forget that Wednesday evening in January when I saw the voicemail notification on my phone. It was from a number I didn’t recognize. Little did I know as I began to play the message that my entire world was about to crumble around me.
An automated, robotic voice said, “Hello, this is a call from (my son’s name), an inmate at the county criminal justice center. To hear your payment options, press zero. To refuse this call, hang up or press one.”
In a panic I called the county jail. Of course, they wouldn’t connect me to my son, it wasn’t until the next day that he was able to call again and tell me the awful truth.
He had been arrested for a serious crime.
My husband, Jim, and I were plunged into a nightmare that I never, ever thought would happen to me or my family. Over the next year, as we navigated the legal process—finding a bail bondsman, hiring an attorney, and throughout my son’s eventual conviction and prison sentence—we felt as though a hurricane had hit us. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t focus on work. I was in more pain than I had ever imagined was possible.
During this time, we encountered what my husband and I called “angels.” People who were kind and gracious and gave us the support we so desperately needed. One of those angels was an excellent therapist who helped us tremendously, and something she said stayed with me: “You’re in a storm, and you can’t control it. But until it ends—and it will end—you can find the eye of calm in the middle of it.” In a surprisingly short time, I learned how to find that calm, peaceful eye in the center of the storm raging around me. I want to share three strategies that will help you find the eye of your storm.
Tip #1: Don’t blame yourself if a loved one was arrested
Recognize that what has happened to you as a parent, spouse, or family member is a serious emotional injury that you didn’t ask for or deserve. Blaming yourself only increases the injury, and it doesn’t help you or your loved one after they were arrested.
Tip #2: Take care of YOU
The emotional injury—or trauma—is as serious as a broken leg. You wouldn’t walk around on an untreated, fractured leg. You’d get a cast, use crutches, and give it TLC until it healed. You need to do the same for your emotional health. Here are some suggestions:
- Take a few minutes each day to meditate. There are lots of guided meditation apps that can help you.
- Journal your thoughts. Often times—especially in the middle of the night—my thoughts would go on a crazy spiral of negativity and doom. I found it helpful to get these negative thoughts out of my head and onto paper. I used the Law of Attraction Daily Planner. I liked it because it guided me through the process of getting my thoughts onto the page. You can find it here.
- Positivity in, negativity out
Eliminate as much negativity as possible from your daily life. Delete all social media and news apps from your phone. Commit to not accessing anything like that for a period of time. It doesn’t have to be forever, just while you’re navigating the storm.
Do at least one small, positive, uplifting activity every day. Be purposeful about it. Plan it, schedule it, and think about it after it’s over. It could be as simple as reading a chapter in a good book, watching a silly movie that makes you laugh, spending some time listening to music. In addition to that, plan something fun at least once a week. This can be going out to dinner, taking a bike ride, going to the movies. Whatever feeds your soul. Don’t let thoughts like, “How can I enjoy myself when my loved one is sitting in jail?” stop you. Sacrificing the joys of life does not help your loved one, and it certainly doesn’t help you. Don’t let guilt stop you from taking time out to take care of yourself.
Tip #3: Get the support you need
As much as possible, surround yourself with positive, uplifting people who love you unconditionally, support you, and who have your back. You need it right now, and you deserve it. Also, I would be honored to be part of your support network. You can reach me through our website at theFOTAproject.org. I’d love to speak with you.
Finally, realize that this won’t last forever. There is life on the other side of a loved one being arrested, accused of a crime, or incarcerated. I found it. You can, too.
Jolyn and Jim Armstrong are the husband-and-wife co-founders of The FOTA Project (Families Of The Accused). When a loved one of Jolyn and Jim’s was arrested, they discovered that there are few support resources for the traumatized families of people accused of a crime. That’s why they launched The FOTA Project. FOTA’s mission is to provide emotional counseling, support and guidance for the families of people who have been accused of a crime or who are incarcerated. For more information visit theFOTAproject.org.