How I’m Learning to Accept My Brother’s Prison Sentence

Last summer, my little brother Jay was sentenced to 30 years in prison for robbing banks. It was, as you can imagine, heartbreaking for everyone who loves him. Since his sentencing, we’ve all had to work on coming to terms with this new version of normal. We’ve had to practice letting go of what we imagined for the future and accepting what is right now.

That acceptance was tested recently when my brother’s ex-girlfriend – the mother of my beloved nephew – got engaged.

I found out about the engagement through a text from my mom. My first instinct was to grieve a little.

I couldn’t help it. I thought of what might have been. I thought of my brother and everything he’d lost – everything he’d thrown away. I thought of the wedding he wouldn’t have and the family he wouldn’t raise.

While my stomach rolled over all the memories my brother wouldn’t make, my mom sent me another text.

“I’m really happy for her.”

And she was. I knew that she was. And I knew that I was, too. I was happy for her because the man she’s going to marry is a wonderful, kind, and loving man. He’s a good guy, and I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather have standing in as a father for my nephew. I’m thrilled that they are taking these steps to solidify their family.

I told Jared, and I could see in his eyes that he instantly thought of Jay. I love him for that, but I reminded him – reminded both of us, really – that this is good news. This is good news for where we all are now.

I sent a message to Bre and let her know that I was genuinely happy for her. I admitted, too, that my heart hurt a bit at first, and that it might always go through that dance when milestones like this come up. She was incredibly compassionate, a trait I’m always glad to see in my nephew’s mother.

But, she also reminded me that she couldn’t live in the shadows of “what could have been.”

I’m glad to see that in Jude’s mom, too.

This is life moving on. This is us moving down the path we’re on, doing our best to be more grateful for the blessings here and less obsessed with the roads we didn’t take.

This is acceptance in progress.

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  1. daniel says:

    This isn’t just good for her, but good for your nephew as well. He is your brother, your nephew’s father, but he isn’t there. To have somebody in his life that wants to be there, and be there with his mother, helping to make her happy, that’s a great thing.

    I know it still stings about your brother. He is your brother and you love him, and you shouldn’t stop loving him. In a way though, this isn’t about him.
    daniel’s most recent post: Phamily Foto Phriday 5-3-13

    • Miss Britt says:

      I tried to respond to this comment last week but apparently the WordPress app is dumb.

      I wanted to say: thank you. “It’s not about him” is something I really, really needed to hear. It needed to be said.

  2. Nanna says:

    Ahhhhhh. Love this post. We are all so incredibly lucky that, having been through the fire together, all of us can be honest with each other and can genuinely rejoice in the joy of WHAT IS. And there really is so much joy.
    Nanna’s most recent post: In Which I Rant About Body Shaming

  3. Megan says:

    I’m totally out of the loop here – I didn’t even know they weren’t together anymore.

    This is the ultimate in gut checks – watching life go on and change instead of holding its breath waiting for something that doesn’t exist anymore.

    I’m so glad you all are smart enough to roll with this and see the good through the hurt. xoxo
    Megan’s most recent post: What I Like About Me

    • Miss Britt says:

      Yeah, it’s not really my place (usually) to get into the woman’s romantic relationships online. And I guess it never came up when we were talking!

  4. Petunia says:

    Wonderful, beautiful post. Relevant for anyone looking to let go of the past, what could have been, and embrace what is. I admire the compassion in you and your family! Thanks for sharing.
    Petunia’s most recent post: Happy Labour Day/Beltane!

  5. Nancy says:

    You’re right, your nephew is blessed to be loved so much by so many amazing people. And yes, you are most certainly among them.

    Remember that this marriage means an addition TO your family, not a loss. That’s something worth celebrating, even if it’s not how you imagined it.

    • Miss Britt says:

      YES. So important. I’m going to tuck that phrase inside my heart for using later.

      Thank you.

  6. Marta says:

    Yes, this is definitely life moving on. We can’t spend our days think what could have been and I think this really will be what is best for everyone!
    Marta’s most recent post: The Mess known as Friday.

  7. Kevin J says:

    I love how powerful your response was to this situation, more power to you and your family. It’s so great how you embrace the positive and the wonderful, the bad will pass with acceptance.

    Thank you.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Acceptance, I believe, is a very useful tool for people trying to be happier. Even more so than reframing and positive thinking.

  8. Sheila says:

    I have a couple of “make this post about Sheila” anecdotes I could regale you with but I won’t.

    Instead, I’ll just tongue-in-cheek-ily say “Hey! You can be like me! Just keep putting the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional family!”

    My most reliable babysitter is my sister’s ex-husband’s new wife, who became his girlfriend *before* he and my sister were divorced.

    I’m welcoming a new niece next week. Her mother is my brother’s ex-fiancee. We retained custody of her.

    And, last but not least, Travis’s biological grandmother also considers herself the girls’ grandmother.

    Our family tree is really confusing.

    Oh hey look…..I *did* give you some anecdotes. GO ME!
    Sheila’s most recent post: FAIL

  9. Whenever I hear that someone has gone to prison my first thought is always about them. The why of it all. In your brother’s case, why did he rob banks? Did he need the money? The thrill of getting away with it? The attention? I dated a man who ended up in prison many times. It was for heroin addiction but I’m not sure that he was telling me the truth about that. I knew him before he went in and after he came out (he was in multiple times but I didn’t realize it)and he was a junkie but I’m not sure if he did anything else to warrant being in prison.

    Since he was a mainline junkie, I’m sure he’s dead now, riddled with AIDS. He had 2 children who his ex-wife kept from him the moment they got divorced. I hope they grew up without rancor.

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