Liahona
How My Husband’s Incarceration Affected Our Family
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How My Husband’s Incarceration Affected Our Family

Friends, family, priesthood leaders, and the Lord helped us make it through this painful season.

Man handcuffed

It has been almost a decade since my husband told me he was being investigated for a serious white-collar crime.

For a long time, no one knew what was happening except for our parents, our bishop, and our stake president. Not even our children knew. I felt as if I was living a double life, trying to smile and pretend that my world wasn’t crashing down around me.

Despite the turmoil, I had never felt closer to my Savior than I did during those months. I received a priesthood blessing and learned that I could pray to understand my husband’s feelings and needs. After months of prayer, I received confirmation that I needed to stand by my husband.

After a year of being investigated, we were financially ruined and not sure how to continue paying our legal bills.

I watched as my husband became depressed. He slowly began to shut us out, and he would often comment that he didn’t want to live anymore. Meanwhile, I had to go back to work and try to manage family life. It was overwhelming, and I was scared.

Sentencing

Before the court hearing, we each received priesthood blessings in the bishop’s office and felt peace. It was expected that my husband would be placed on probationary supervision for a short season. But as the judge pronounced the sentence of seven years in prison, I had a panic attack. I literally fell to the floor, and someone called the paramedics. I spent three days in bed after that, worried, scared, and confused.

My husband’s term of incarceration would begin in four months. During that time, our family searched for ways to cope and prepare. I remember how simple things like walking into church caused us debilitating anxiety, as we felt alone.

An inspired stake president started meeting weekly with us to set goals to help keep us from sinking further. Even with the generosity of family and friends, we knew nothing was going to make this go away. I was about to be a single mother! Even after years of living the gospel, I struggled to have faith that I could survive. Negative feelings and emotions flooded my mind. I felt worthless, broken, and alone.

Incarceration

Finally, the time came for my husband and me to travel to the prison where he would be incarcerated. I sobbed uncontrollably watching him walk into that facility. I didn’t know how I would be able to go home to my kids alone.

The challenges of supporting a loved one who is incarcerated seem to be endless. Because of the expense of traveling from our home to the prison, our family was only able to visit him about once every six weeks. After two years, he was transferred to a facility closer to our home, so our visits became more frequent. My children often missed school to see their dad and missed opportunities to be with friends and attend Church activities.

All of this took an emotional toll on the children. Our youngest child constantly worried that something bad was going to happen if he was not with me. He refused to go to activities unless he could call me, and I had a hard time getting him to attend school. He became quite defiant, especially toward his father.

So many life events took place while my husband was incarcerated. Our son got married, a missionary came home, and another missionary left. A child graduated from college, and another graduated from high school. Our first two grandchildren were born.

Going through these milestones alone was difficult. It was hard to keep our marriage intact, and at times even harder to feel close to God. Throughout it all, my children and I did our best to put our faith in God. We regularly attended professional counseling to deal with the anger, depression, and anxiety that came as a result.

Release

The closer we got to my husband’s release date, the more excited and fearful I became. Of course I was excited to see him! But I feared that it would not be easy for him to integrate back into family life after so much time away. Everything that happened before he left came rushing back to my memory, accompanied by all the horrible feelings.

When my husband was released, he spent a month in a halfway house, which limited the time we could spend with him so he could gradually ease back into society. He was then released to home confinement for six months. Finally, he was home!

Since my husband has returned home, every single day has brought new triumphs and new struggles. We call it “cleaning up the debris.” There are still difficult moments, but we love and value each other more than ever. We are quicker to forgive and move on. Our treatment toward each other has improved as we serve each other, show kindness, and say “I love you.”

Meanwhile, we try hard to love our kids through their struggles as they continue trying to heal from this experience. Our family still has a lot of hard and painful work ahead of us. But, with help from God and professionals, we are slowly becoming unified the way we once were.

Honestly, the first six months after my husband returned home were spiritually tough. But now we feel more comfortable at church. We are again teaching the same Sunday School class we were teaching when my husband was incarcerated. Our son is in that class, and it gives him an opportunity to hear his dad’s testimony in a way that he has missed. Some Sundays are still filled with anxiety for both of us, but we are getting better.

Lessons Learned

We are forever changed. Although we have learned some good things from this experience, which I will describe below, I have to acknowledge that each member of our family is still haunted to some degree by the time my husband spent incarcerated. And we are still burdened by the aftermath of the financial, emotional, and social toll it has taken on each of us. Some days are harder than others. Some days I wonder if life will ever really feel normal. At the same time, I know that through Christ, complete healing and forgiveness are possible.

I’ve gained some things because of this experience. First of all, I have gained lifelong friends who did not allow me to get lost in this trial. I found friends I didn’t realize I had and met new friends who were in a similar set of circumstances.

Also, so much self-discovery happened while my husband was incarcerated. I learned what being committed to an eternal marriage really means. I learned to rely on God, and I gained a better understanding of His timing. I learned He answers prayers in ways that allow me to grow while still giving me light and hope.

I learned I have amazing, strong kids. I learned I can do the unthinkable: not only can I survive in the face of adversity, I can excel. I learned that it does not make me weak to need others. I learned to rely on and ask for priesthood blessings. I learned that no request is too small for my Heavenly Father.

I still have anxiety and am fearful of a lot of things, but every day brings healing. My husband and I have witnessed so many miracles these past eight years. I am no longer angry. I know Heavenly Father has been and will continue to be with us—before, during, and after this trial.

My Plea to Others

This I know to be true: friends, family, priesthood leaders, and the Lord helped my children and me make it through my husband’s incarceration.

To the families going through prosecution and incarceration:

  • Don’t give up! Hang on! There is always light at the end of each journey.

  • Each phase of this journey can bring new light, clarity, and healing. I am now in the rebuilding phase, and when I look back, I have no choice but to be grateful. Each phase seems easier than the last.

  • You are not alone. Find sisters and brothers who are going through similar trials. Seek them for strength. They are out there.

  • Ask for priesthood blessings of comfort, strength, and understanding—and most importantly, to be able to see past this time in your life.

To those who know someone who is being prosecuted or incarcerated:

  • Love them instead of judging them.

  • Keep reaching out to them, even when they hide or push you away.

  • Give them the benefit of the doubt. They need people in their corner. Let them be “innocent until proven guilty” in your mind as well as in the courtroom.

  • Show up. Listen when they want to talk and be someone they can be with when they just need to feel normal.

  • If you are their friend—or your kids are friends—create opportunities for normal and casual interactions. Remember that they probably feel like a parasite and will need extra compassion.

  • Bishops, stake presidents, and ministering brothers can offer to give priesthood blessings. Sometimes those are the hardest to ask for when they are the most needed.