The loved ones of inmates often carry heavy loads. Not only are they often the sole provider for their families with all the stress that brings, but they also often carry heavy loads of guilt. Some may even feel it is their fault their loved one is incarcerated. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

 

 The first step to rejecting guilt is to recognize the guilt you’re feeling. Then you’ll want to examine what is motivating that guilt. Dealing with the root motivator can give you freedom from the heavy weight you’ve been carrying. Let’s look at a few ways to recognize the feelings of guilt that you may be facing:

Exercise #1

 

1.      Set a timer for five minutes. During that five minutes list every answer that comes to mind that fills out the rest of the following sentence: “If only…”

 

2.      Now examine that list. Group the items into catagories.

 

It’s fairly likely that you’re going to notice some big overlaps. These are probably the items you feel worst about, the items you’ve obsessed over, or tried to compensate for. Here’s an example list:

 

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If only…

 

…I had come home sooner.

 

…didn’t weigh so much.

 

… had better friends.

 

…I had never met so-and-so.

 

… I hadn’t told so-and-so about such-and-such.

 

… I was more interesting.

 

… I hadn’t let so-and-so’s friend come over that day.

 

… I had been more vigilant.

 

…I hadn’t been so consumed with my job.

 

…I had been listening when so-and-so tried to talk with me.

 

…I had more time.

 

Catagorizing

 

To categorize the list above here’s one way it might break down.

 

Regret over use of time

 

…I had come home sooner

 

…I hadn’t let so-and-so’s friend come over that day.

 

…I hadn’t been so consumed with my job.

 

…I had been listening when so-and-so tried to talk with me.

 

…I had more time.

 

Regret over focus

 

…I had come home sooner.

 

… I had been more vigilant.

 

…I hadn’t been so consumed with my job.

 

…I had been listening when so-and-so tried to talk with me.

 

Regret over choice of acquaintances/friends

 

… had better friends.

 

…I had never met so-and-so.

 

… I hadn’t told so-and-so about such-and-such.

 

… I hadn’t let so-and-so’s friend come over that day.

 

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Regret over personal characteristics/character traits

 

…didn’t weigh so much.

 

… I was more interesting.

 

You get the idea. Looking at someone else’s list it can be easier to pick out the big guilt tripping items. Often the things we fixate on that we feel should or could be different trap us in a whirlwind of “If onlys”. Next week we’ll look at the root motivators of the list above, and how the person struggling with this list might approach getting rid of his/her feelings of guilt.

 

 Are you going through the rollercoaster ride of life that loved ones of inmates face? Renee Patterson has written many books from inmate’s loved ones perspectives. Check out her book The Prison Betrayal for a thrilling read.