How to Deal with the Arrest of a Family Member

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Most people that are arrested and charged with crimes, including serious crimes like first-degree murder, have families that love them. Of course, that’s not always true, but in many cases, you’ll hear people who are interviewed in court and even in the media are the family and the loved ones of the accused or convicted person.

You never want to think that someone you love could do something terrible, but what happens if you do find yourself in that situation?

How can you cope with the arrest of a family member, especially if the charges are serious and could potentially lead to long jail times?

Beyond the legal logistics and how you might help there, there following are some things to know, particularly related to coping on a personal level.

Understanding the Effects on Family Members

If your loved one is arrested, it can be scary and also traumatic for you and other members of the family.

For example, if it’s your romantic partner, it can feel like a death to have that person that you spent every day with suddenly gone.

The events surrounding an arrest can be traumatic for kids, especially police searches and the actual arrest. If you have young children who are present during this time, it can be frightening.

There will be a lot of short-term feelings everyone affected has to process, but then these will probably turn into longer-term feelings. These feelings, such as shame or guilt, are going to be amplified if the crime is violent or sexual in nature.

You might feel like everyone in the world knows what happened and is judging you.

Keep a Distance In the Immediate Days Following an Arrest

If you know that your loved one is going to be arrested, or they’ve just been arrested, be calm and careful. Keep a distance from the person and the situation until you calm down and learn more about the crime and the potential consequences.

It’s possible that depending on what you say or do in those early days, you could be charged with something like aiding and abetting a crime.

For example, if your loved one has committed a crime and comes to you for a place to stay, you can also find yourself in legal trouble.

Start Thinking Long-Term

Once you’re past those initial days, and maybe you’ve found out that your loved one will indeed be spending time in jail, you have to start thinking about the long-term logistics of what that will look like.

What will the financial impact be? You may have to start living on a single income when you were used to two incomes.

How much money can you dedicate to the expenses that your loved one in jail might need? For example, buying items from a commissary and making phone calls can be expensive.

You will need to learn the visiting policies at the jail and decide how much time you can dedicate to those visits. Set expectations for your loved one.

Have a plan for how you want to talk to people about the situation, and stick with a consistent story.

You’ll also have to consider how you want to deal with it for your children. For example, if it’s their parent in jail, do you want to take your children to visit? It may be traumatizing for them, at the same time, you want to help maintain a relationship with their parent. These are decisions that are going to be personal to your situation.

There will be times, whether it’s on the phone or during in-person visits where your loved one is likely to lash out.

This is normal because it’s scary for them too. Don’t take these situations personally but set boundaries to maintain your own well-being.

Take Care of Yourself

Finally, you are suffering if someone you care about is going to jail. You will have serious feelings and emotions to work through, and probably a lot of grief too. These feelings can be amplified if it’s a romantic partner who was charged and convicted of a crime.

You might want to join a support group. There are community groups for people who have loved ones in jail. You can talk to your local court system and see if they’re aware of any.

If you aren’t comfortable in a group setting, a grief counselor may be able to help you work through your sense of loss and possibly guilt as well.

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About Kristin

Master reviewer of all types of products. Love XL Fountain Sodas!! Cheer Mom extraordinaire. Socialite to all things small town and founder of Come socialize and connect with me.


  1. Dana Rodriguez says

    Really interesting. This is not something I have thought about before.

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