When you are simply trying to make it through the current day, there is no future planning here.
The first moments of hearing your husband is being arrested are terrifying, numbing, and anger inducing all at once. You pretty quickly go into a state of shock and this is when Survival mode begins to kick in. At this point you need survival mode, all you CAN do is make it through the day, one minute at a time. So many things are thrown at you at once, so many things are rapidly changing and you are understandably overwhelmed. There is a lot to take in, a lot to consider and figure out. Know that this is normal, but also be comforted that it is temporary. You will come around again and move from merely surviving to thriving – even through this.
So, how do you know you are in survival mode?
Here are 8 indications to look for…
Everything is urgent. It must be done, and it must be NOW.
You find yourself continually cancelling on your friends, family and work.
Your support system cannot help. You can’t see past the moment to even think of asking them.
The stress is overwhelming.
Your Joy is gone, a thing of the past.
You are reacting to everything, not thoughtfully responding.
Everything is risky, scary.
You can’t take the time for excellence. It is all done quick and dirty.
While this kind of life will keep you alive, that is all it will do. You will merely survive. That is why you must recognize it for what it is and make intentional efforts to switch out of it as soon as you possibly can. You can and will move all the way from Survival mode to a Thriving life if you are intentional about it.
How can you be intentional in overcoming survival mode?
First thing you need to do is make sure you are taking care of yourself. Start simply, take a shower even when you don’t feel like it. I know you are exhausted, after a day of just surviving, being as present as you can for the kids, answering the calls from jail, not knowing what to expect next. It’s all very overwhelming and all you want to do is crash in the bed and sleep for a week. You know you can’t and won’t do that, however, so take that shower! It will make you feel better, it will revive some of your energy and normalcy. And don’t forget your Spiritual well being above all. Take your fears and worries to your loving Heavenly Father. Spend time with him and allow him to speak to you and guide you through all the upcoming decisions.
Speaking of normalcy, that is something that really helps too. Keeping as much normal routine, normal interaction with others as possible. You are going to have enough times where you feel alone and lost in this journey, hang on to what you can of your day to day life. Keep the kids bedtime the same, same house rules, things like that. While you will have to be a little more lenient and understanding, a little more flexible, with yourself and the kids keeping things on as even a keel as possible will help them and you feel more secure and safe even with the chaos happening around you. Stability is key.
Since survival mode means you are mostly reacting and flying by the seat of your pants, intentionally doing the opposite is a great way to break the cycle. Find a time each day to sit down and plan. Set big goals and small goals, break them down into bite size pieces and then go for it, one bite at a time. Having a plan will help with the security feeling as well. If everyone knows there is a plan and what they are expected to do and when it takes most of the fear out of this understandably scary and confusing time.
Remember to find Joy in every circumstance. It is there, even in the cell with him, even in the mess in your kids rooms, in the hectic schedules and tight budgets. You can find the joy if you look from the right perspective. For me, him going to jail was the wake-up call he needed to start his journey of healing – I found joy in seeing what God was doing (and still do). The kids messy rooms means you have people who love you, people who are finding joy in playing even through this. There is joy in the smiles that still show up. Hectic schedules means that you can find joy in your ability to get things done, in the things you actually have control over and can choose to say yes or no to. Tight budgets are opportunities to teach your kids ( and remind yourself ) about gratefulness.
Saying NO to some things will also be necessary. there are things that will trigger you or the kids and start a big cascade of feelings. It is OK to avoid those situations until you are further along in your healing and know how to handle it better. This is a grieving process, even if no one else understands that. There may be days you have a need to even say no to the kids going to school. They will need time to heal and talk things through as well. I didn’t do it a lot, in fact, I likely should have allowed it more often, but letting them have a “mental health day” was important from time to time. School is stressful enough, and if the kids know their father is in jail it can be even harder. Some kids can be mean about it, but even if not the curious ones ask questions that can be both upsetting and hard to answer for your kiddos. Let them have a breather every now and then.
Don’t panic, and don’t stay in survival mode. I also highly recommend getting therapy for all of you. This life is not something you should try to handle on your own. Find someone who understands the prison life, it is a whole different world and I learned that you need to handle things differently than you would normally. (more about that next week) A councilor or therapist can really help you and your family work through a lot of the feelings and worries that you are and will have.
Main thing to keep in mind is that this is a temporary state – you will come out the other side, and you can come out better than you went in. You have more control over your state of being than you might think. Remember to breath, take it one step at a time, and look for the joy as well as the lessons you can learn. Let this circumstance be a growing one in which you learn to THRIVE!