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Grief is an inevitable part of life, though it is often associated with death there are many reasons a person may encounter grief while in prison outside of death.

The written and unwritten codes of prison make it harder to grieve in prison, not to minimize what someone may be experiencing outside of prison, but at least outside of prison a person can find family and/or friends to lean on, or at least have the option of going to find a safe private place to grieve. These possibilities are limited within prison.

Grief is a very personal experience that only the person experiencing it can find understanding in. This contributes to the feelings of loneliness.There are rare opportunities to entrust your feelings to another person inside. And if a person is not careful to find some positive outlet things could really turn disastrous.


Grief    noun ˈgrēf
  1. 1 obsolete :  grievance 3

  2. 2 a :  deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement b :  a cause of such suffering

  3. 3 a :  an unfortunate outcome :  disaster —used chiefly in the phrase come to grief b :  mishap, misadventure c :  trouble, annoyance <enough grief for one day> d :  annoying or playful criticism <getting grief from his friends>

according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Stages of Grief:  Kübler-Ross  model  

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance

popularly known by the acronym DABDA

(Found on Wikipedia)

Grieving the Death of Family Member or Friend:

Denial: The first reaction is denial. In this stage individuals believe the diagnosis is somehow mistaken, and cling to a false, preferable reality.

Anger: When the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue, they become frustrated, especially at proximate individuals. Certain psychological responses of a person undergoing this phase would be: “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”; “Why would this happen?”.

Bargaining: The third stage involves the hope that the individual can avoid a cause of grief. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek compromise.

Depression: “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die soon, so what’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?”  During the fourth stage, the individual despairs at the recognition of their mortality. In this state, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time mournful and sullen.

Acceptance: “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”   In this last stage, individuals embrace mortality or inevitable future, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event. People dying may precede the survivors in this state, which typically comes with a calm, retrospective view for the individual, and a stable condition of emotions.

Kübler-Ross later expanded her model to include any form of personal loss, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or income, major rejection, the end of a relationship or divorce, drug addiction, incarceration, the onset of a disease or chronic illness, an infertility diagnosis, and even minor losses.

Both sufferers and therapists have reported the usefulness of the Kübler-Ross Model in a wide variety of situations.  The subsections below give a few specific examples of how the model can be applied in different situations:

Grieving in Substance Abuse

Denial: People feel that they do not have a problem concerning alcohol or other substances. Even if they do feel as if they might have a small problem they believe that they have complete control over the situation and can stop drinking or doing drugs whenever they want. Example: “I don’t have to drink all of the time. I can stop whenever I want.”

Anger: The anger stage of abusers relates to how they get upset because they have an addiction or are angry that they can no longer use drugs. Some of these examples include “I don’t want to have this addiction anymore.” “This isn’t fair, I’m too young to have this problem.”

Bargaining: This is the stage that drug and alcohol abusers go through when they are trying to convince themselves or someone else that they are going to stop abusing in order to get something out of it or get themselves out of trouble (or to justify continuing their use of drugs and/or alcohol). Example: “God, I promise I’ll never use again if you just get me out of trouble.” “…If you let me stay here, I will never do drugs/alcohol again.”

Depression: Sadness and hopelessness are important parts of the depression stage when drug abusers are faced with the reality of living a life without their substance of choice. Most abusers experience this when they are going through the withdrawal stage quitting their addiction.

Acceptance: With substance abusers, admitting the existence of a problem is different from accepting the problem. When a substance abuser admits that he/she has a problem, this is more likely to occur in the bargaining stage. Accepting that he/she has a problem is when you realise that you have a problem and start the process to resolve the issue

Grieving Incarceration

As we have noted we as human beings can grieve many things and this is especially so when it comes to incarcerated individuals grieving their circumstances. Here we present the stages of grief as they relate to actually grieving incarceration.

We found this insightful information about grieving prison on the Prison Fellowship website: https://www.prisonfellowship.org/resources/training-resources/in-prison/prison-culture/five-stages-

Denial—This stage begins when a person enters prison and lasts one to three years for those with a sentence over 10 years. For lesser sentences, they may be in denial for their entire sentence. Prisoners swing from emotions of rebellion to withdrawal and find it hard to believe they’re really in prison. They tend to blame their situation on others, are often callous toward victims, and have trouble comprehending the seriousness of consequences.

Anger—When faced with the reality that they can no longer deny the situation, a prisoner often becomes angry, may threaten lawsuits, express grievances, or bully weaker people . Some join gangs. They may demand equal treatment but show little regard for fairness.

Bargaining—A sense of “if only” settles in. “If only my dad had been around. If only people would treat me fairly.” They may resort to making promises and deals with God or others. They promise to mend their ways in exchange for favors. Often filled with guilt, frustration, and shame, it’s hard for prisoners to believe God will forgive.

Depression—Feelings of hopelessness and sadness sink in when it’s clear that anger or bargaining don’t work. Depressed prisoners tend to withdraw from others and focus on what they’ve lost. One prisoner said, “I wanted to sleep all the time. I wanted to escape my pain.” Prisoners begin to face the consequences of their past actions. They grieve their loss of freedom and separation from loved ones.

Acceptance—Prisoners begin to accept that they’re in prison for the long haul, which can make some emotionally numb.  Others experience genuine soul searching and accept some responsibility for their situation. Attitudes are improving. They fall into a routine and usually try to improve through reading, school, church, or work. A sense of peace moves in and many show a sincere desire to change.



When someone we love is accused/guilty of a crime and/or arrested or sentenced to some period of time in jail or prison it is not ONLY the person involved in or accused of a crime or  that is arrested, it is the entire network of family and friends belonging to that person.

If a loved one died you can almost always count on support from family and friends.If a loved one  goes to prison or jail,there usually isn’t much support, especially if the loved one is believed to be guilty. This could lead to a number of issues with the family being the subject of gossip and the children being bullied. The shame and fear that is associated with incarceration can be overwhelming.

Though, death is at the top of the list when it comes to grief, other causes of grief shouldn’t be minimized.These emotions experienced many times over when it comes to incarceration. The guilt and shame associated with leaving loved ones, who in many cases depended on the incarcerated person for survival.

Children Grieving in Divorce

Denial: Children feel the need to believe that their parents will get back together, or will change their mind about the divorce. Example: “Mom and Dad will stay together.”

Anger: Children feel the need to blame someone for their sadness and loss. Example: “I hate Mom for leaving us.”

Bargaining: In this stage, children feel as if they have some say in the situation if they bring a bargain to the table. This helps them keep focused on the positive that the situation might change, and less focused on the negative, the sadness they’ll experience after the divorce. Example: “If I do all of my chores or maybe if I do everything I’m supposed to, then he won’t leave.”

Depression: This involves the child experiencing sadness when they know there is nothing else to be done, and they realize they cannot stop the divorce. The parents need to let the child experience this process of grieving because if they do not, it only shows their inability to cope with the situation. Example: “I’m sorry that I cannot fix this situation for you.”

Acceptance: This does not necessarily mean that the child will be completely happy again. The acceptance is just moving past the depression and starting to accept the divorce. The sooner the parents start to move on from the situation, the sooner the children can begin to accept the reality of it.



 Grief PamphletHelping Children When a Loved One is Dying

Children’s Grief Center of New Mexico

Grief Brochure-2014

Grieving the Loss of an Amorous Relationship

Denial: The person left behind is unable to admit that the relationship is over. He/she may continue to seek the former partner’s attention.

Anger: The partner left behind may blame the departing partner, or him/herself.

Bargaining: The partner left behind may plead with a departing partner that the stimulus that provoked the breakup shall not be repeated. Example: “I can change. Please give me a chance.” Alternatively, he/she may attempt to renegotiate the terms of the relationship.

Depression: The partner left behind might feel discouraged that his or her bargaining plea did not convince the former partner to stay.

Acceptance: Lastly, the partner abandons all efforts toward renewal of the relationship.

A Grief Pamphlet For

People in Prison and Jails



Coping Tips for Grieving The Incarceration of a Loved One

“Coping When a Loved One is Sentenced to Prison”

We found these great tips by:  in her blog post titled “Coping When a Loved One is Sentenced to Prison” at: http://www.neworleans-criminal-defense.com/attorney-blog/2014/07/07/coping-loved-one-sentenced-prison/

1) Take it one day at a time — Your body, mind and spirit are totally consumed with pain.  Focus on today, tomorrow will come soon enough.

 2) Drop the feeling of “normal” — Nothing is going to be normal for quite some time because what you are going through is not “normal.” As time moves forward, you will adjust and experience a new “normal”.

 3) Brace yourself for many loses — The loss of a loved one in your daily life can start a domino effect of losses.  Personal possessions will be given away.  Relationships with friends and other family members may be strained. Don’t be alarmed if one loss seems to escalate until you feel overwhelmed.

 4)  Tell people what you need — people will not know how to relate to your loss.  Be specific about your wants and needs.  Ask for help.

 5) Remember to eat — grieving affects the mind in many ways.  It requires a lot of energy.  You may not be hungry, you may forget to eat, but you need to keep your strength.

 6) Sleep when you can — Your sleep most likely will be affected by your loss. You need sleep to function mentally and physically.  Take a nap if you are tired. Try sleeping in a different place in the

house if you cannot sleep in your bed. See your doctor is sleeplessness continues.

 7) Crying is okay — Let the tears flow either when you are alone or in public. Crying is a natural outlet to grief.

 8) Exercise every day — Exercising will help you deal with the multitude of emotions that are rippling through your body. It will also help you sleep at night.

 9) Seek support early — Get support through family, friends or a grief counselor. You don’t have to walk through this alone.

 10) Lean on your faith — If you are a spiritual person, remember to touch base with your faith. It will bring comfort, strength and internal wisdom. If you have no belief system, then get in touch with nature. The beauty of the world around us can be very soothing. Your faith will help your loved one cope better with being incarcerated.

Grief Resources

Grief Recovery Institute  1-(800)334-7606





Grief and Depression

Grief and depression share many of the same symptoms, so how can one be sure that they are experiencing one or the other? Though bereavement never really ends due to the fact that the grief we experience will forever have an association with a specific date or time in our lives, if it is a death we’re grieving the feelings of grief can arise as they did during the initial grief process during birthdays or anniversaries, they can also be triggered by certain places and events.

For people who have previously struggled with acknowledged or unacknowledged depression, the death of a significant other can be the catalyst that brings depression to the foreground.
Recognizing depression in grief.If you are in the process of coping with the sudden death of a loved or the lengthy grieving process you can almost always expect to experience feelings of depression. This may include loss of appetite, insomnia and sadness, which can all be a part of the normal grieving process. When experiencing these feelings it is suggested that you allow the process to take it’s course with expectations for these feelings to lessen over time. You can also feel great one day and fall back into deep grief the next day.

With depression the stress is increased,it intensifies the grief, and may even interfere with grief’s resolution,In its more severe forms, the sufferer is withdrawn and inconsolable, and ongoing life may seem unimaginable. Thoughts of death or dying are core features of major depression and suicide unfortunately is not a foreign concept during this state. At this point it is highly recommended that one seeks professional help. Other remedies can help offset the magnitude of depression as well such as a balanced diet and exercise.

Learning to accept the process can help one from falling into a deep depression due to the feelings associated with grief. Having a support network during this period could be the difference between experiencing grief and depression. Having someone to talk to

Unresolved Grief

If left untreated, the long term effects can be devastating to future relationships and every day activities, such as work and what used to be enjoyable hobbies. Here are some things that can be done to help resolve the unsettled feelings.

Unresolved grief can be caused by pretty much anything big or small. If something, someone, or an event was important to you, and a change in that relationship has affected your emotions negatively, there is a way by which you may recover.

Signs of unresolved grief

Preoccupation with sad or painful memories

  • Refusal to talk about the loss at all
  • Increase in alcohol, food, drug, or cigarette usage.
  • Overindulge in hobbies, work, or excercise activities
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Isolation from friends and family


    Moving Forward: Life After Grief

    Grief takes time and it usually takes much longer than we think.  This is not because the old adage of “Time Heals” is true but because we don’t actually understand what we need to do to move beyond grief.  If we look around we can find many people who are in the same place as us.  While this can be comforting it doesn’t necessarily help us move forward. The paradox is that those who have moved beyond their grief generally don’t tend to spend time talking about it.

    Grief creates feelings of extreme vulnerability, and people who pride themselves on being strong and capable can feel ashamed of the weakness that accompanies grief. People who value emotional control might be ashamed of the seemingly uncontrollable emotions.and may actually prolong the grief process because of the shame associated  with what is perceived as weakness, this may be especially so in the prison environment where perceived weakness can be an open invitation to unwanted problems.

    The first thing  is to make a conscious decision to shift from looking at grief to looking at what your life after loss will be. Asa with all things adaptation during grief is a learning process in which one has to be patient and willing to endure. Reminders of the loss are so painful that a person will go to go to great lengths to avoid these feelings, and thoughts making it more difficult to reflect on and make peace with the loss. Being aware of this fact arms one with the ability to employ their will to overcome, instead of being victimized by the grief process one may become empowered by it.

    There will be still be days that are challenging.  Remember though the more you focus on life after loss the more your brain will support this and the easier it will become.

    Think about everything that you’ve wanted to do but have never got around to doing before.  Think about the things that you enjoy doing and want more of in your life.  Think about the people that still make you happy and who you want to be a part of your life.

    How to Cope with loss and Pain 

     How to Cope with Loss and Pain is a two part wikiHow article by several authors, the first part “Weathering Grief” is provided below. To view Part 2 “Working Towards Happiness” click on the link below:


    When you lose someone or something very precious to you, the grief can be intense. Pain, sad memories, and unanswered questions can haunt you. You may even feel that you’ll never be the same – that you’ll never laugh or be whole again. Take heart – though there is no way to grieve without pain, there are healthy ways to grieve which allow you to constructively move forward. Don’t settle for a life drained of joy – work through your loss and, slowly but surely, you will get better.

    Face the loss. After a serious loss, we sometimes want to do something – anything – to dull the pain. Submitting to a harmful habit like drug use, alcohol abuse, oversleeping, Internet overuse, or wanton promiscuity threatens your well-being and leaves you vulnerable to addiction and further pain. You’ll never truly heal until you confront the loss. Ignoring the pain caused by the loss or sedating yourself with distractions will only work for so long – no matter how fast you run from it, eventually, your grief will overtake you. Confront your loss. Allow yourself to cry or grieve in another way that feels natural. Only by first acknowledging your grief can you begin to defeat it.

    When a loss is fresh in your memory, your grief deserves your full attention. However, you should draw a line on prolonged grieving. Give yourself a period of time – perhaps a few days to a week – to be profoundly sad. Protracted wallowing ultimately keeps you stuck in your sense of loss, paralyzed by self-pity and unable to move forward.

     Find an outlet for your pain. If you’re compelled to do a certain activity as you grieve, do it (provided it doesn’t involve hurting yourself or others.) Crying, pummeling the pillow, going for a long run, throwing things out, going for a long drive, screaming at the top of your lungs in a forest or other solitary place, and sketching your memories are just some of the ways that different people find outlets for their pain. All are equally valid.

    void doing anything that might result in harm to yourself or to others. Loss isn’t about inflicting harm or making things worse. Loss is a time for learning how to draw on your inner emotional reserves and learning how to cope with pain.

    Share your feelings with others. It’s healthy to seek out people who will take care of you when you’re suffering. If you can’t find a friend, lean on a compassionate stranger or a priest, counselor, or therapist. Even if you feel that you’re rambling, confused and uncertain, talking to someone you trust is one form of allowing yourself to start dumping out some the pain you’re experiencing. See talk as a form of “sorting” your emotions – your thoughts don’t need to be coherent or reasoned. They just need to be expressive.

    If you’re worried others listening to you might be confused or upset by what you’re saying, a simple warning up front can alleviate this concern. Just let them know you’re feeling sad, upset, confused, etc., and that, although some of the words you say aren’t going to make sense, you appreciate having someone listen. A caring friend or supporter won’t mind.

    Distance yourself from people who aren’t compassionate. Unfortunately, not everyone you talk to while you’re grieving will be helpful to you. Ignore people who say things like “get over it”, “stop being so sensitive”, “I got over it quickly when it happened to me”, etc. They don’t know how you feel, so don’t give their dismissive comments any attention. Tell them “You don’t have to be around me while I’m going through this if it’s too much for you to bear. But I need to go through it, regardless of how you’re feeling, so please give me some space.”

    Some of the people who are dismissive of your grief may even be friends with good (but misguided) intentions. Reconnect with these people when you’re feeling stronger. Until then, distance yourself from their impatience – you can’t rush an emotional recovery.

    Harbor no regrets. After you’ve lost someone, you may feel guilty. You may be preoccupied by thoughts like, “I wish I’d said goodbye one last time,” or “I wish I’d treated this person better.” Don’t allow yourself to be consumed by your sense of guilt. You cannot change the past by mulling over it again and again. It’s not your fault that you lost someone you loved. Rather than dwelling on what you could have done or should have done, focus on what you can do – process your emotions and move forward.If you feel guilty following a loss, talk to other people who knew the person or pet. They will almost always be able to help you convince yourself that the loss isn’t your fault.

    Save things that remind you of your loved one. Just because a person or a pet is gone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always remember them. It may be comforting to know that even if the person or pet is no longer here, the friendship, love and personal ties you have with them still exist. No one will ever be able to take that away from you, and the relationship you have with them will always be a part of you. Some mementos will always be worth keeping to remind you of your own courage, tenacity and ability to envision a better future.Keep the mementos that remind you of the person or pet in a box somewhere out of the way. Bring them out when you need a tangible reminder of your memories. It’s not usually a good idea to leave the mementos lying around in the open. A constant reminder that someone is gone can make it hard to move on.Get help. In our society, we have a tremendously harmful stigma against people who seek help with emotional http://www.pet-loss.net/problems. Seeing a therapist or counselor does not make you weak or pathetic. Rather, it’s a sign of strength. By seeking out the help you need, you show an admirable desire to move forward and overcome your grief. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a professional – in 2004, more than a quarter of American adults had seen a therapist within the previous two years.


Grieving Your Pet

For many people pets are beloved members of the family and, when a pet dies, you feel a significant loss.

If your pet was a working dog or a helper animal such as a guide dog, then you’ll not only be grieving the loss of a companion but also the loss of a coworker or the loss of your independence. If you lived alone and the pet was your only companion, coming to terms with their loss can be even harder. If you were unable to afford expensive veterinary treatment to save the life of your pet, you may even feel a profound sense of guilt.

See “Ten Tips for Coping With Pet Loss”  by Moira Anderson Allen, M.Ed. at: http://www.pet-loss.net/