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Brother in prison, Mum depressed?

Community Member

Hi all. I’m after some advice to help with my Mum. I’m not sure if she is depressed but I know she’s definitely not the same as she used to be. 10 years ago my brother was arrested and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Obviously a huge shock to our family. I won’t say what he did but you may be able to work it out based on the time he got. There is a lot to the story which I won’t go into here, not relevant for now. In the first few months of my brothers arrest/prison time etc a lot of Mum’s friends and family distanced themselves and “cut her off” in the end which didn’t help.

Mum and I have stood by my brother and will continue to do so until he is released. In the early days, counselling was offered for us but we, at the time, believed it wouldn’t help and we could get through this ourselves. Mum had not many friends and even now the couple she still has don’t know about my brother because she fears that telling them would drive them away too. I tell her if they are really your friends they won’t but that doesn’t help. I on the other hand have had the opposite. None of my friends have turned their backs on me so I can’t understand what Mum has been through.

She keeps telling me that “I don’t understand the way she feels because I’m not a parent” and ok maybe I don’t know what she’s been through as a Mother of a Son in prison but I’m trying to. I have dealt with this a lot better than Mum, I slowly got used to the fact my brother wasn’t around anymore, even though we still see him regularly, write letters, phone calls etc. I’ve been with my partner for almost 7 years and married for 2. Mum more or less refuses to even acknowledge my Wife, she never asks about her, never sees her and shows no interest in our lives together. This makes us sad, angry and annoyed but I desperately want to help Mum past this. She doesn’t see any problem and every time I bring it up, try to talk to her about it she gets defensive and angry and pushes me away. She thinks I’m overreacting and being stupid.

Mum doesn’t see my wife as I said, she saw her once last year and so far once this year but she basically ignored her. I confronted her about it and again she didn’t see a problem. In her mind I think she believes that she has “lost” one Son already and now she’s losing the other one (me) because I’m still living my life, carrying on and she isn’t. I could go on but I’ll stop here. Thanks for reading, any advice/help would be greatly appreciated.

3 Replies 3

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi g2015 welcome to beyond blue

Had to think a fair bit on this. I'm an ex prison officer some 37 years ago. Until I worked there I viewed/imagined prison as the unknown except it is a deep dark place of horrors. While it is an unsavoury environment the main aspect of it is "separation". Separating the prisoners from society- that's it.

But to many family members it is full of shame and guilt. Parents blame themselves and if it is a long term sentence as your brother's is, the likes of your dear mum go into their shells. The gravity of it intensifies when friends disown her.

As a loving and caring son, you hope to fill the gap, fix it, help it along etc. But you cant save the world.

Try to get your mum to the doctors for his/her advice and support. If she doesnt go, you cant do more. Remain supportive but remember, your life and your future is also important and your chief focus should be there IMO. As for your wife entering into the family and your mum not taking interest, she knows you have made your choice and appears not to like her. That's her choice and not something you have control over. Again, you cant change others perceptions nor make them get along. And again it strikes me as a case of you saving the world, a saying my therapist gave to me in 1987 when I was attempting to do what was beyond me.

So, try to sway her towards therapy via a GP visit. If that fails drift just a little bit to focus on your own household and care for your wife.In a sad way, your mum has to carry her own cross. Her sadness is for her to bare. As for her deserting friends- better off without them.

Tony WK

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi g2015,

Just last month, one of our members posted a thread about her son being in prison. I'll link to it below - you might find it a useful read, and so might your mum:

 Sadness,grief and regret over sons incarceration


Community Member

Hi g2015,

Hi I am writing to you as I am to the mother of a son in prison, thats me in the above post from chris b.

Yes please read my posts as I can completely and sadly relate to your mum, it is absolutely heartbreaking to watch you child go through this, my son has been in for nearly 14 months and I am still trying to get used to it, even though it is of their own doing it has still changed my world  and my day to day life.

You as the mother feel a mixture of emotions, sadness, regret , guilt, a deep pain in your heart that you couldn't help or prevent your son from going down the wrong path, it plays over and over in your head, what could I have done, what didn't I do??

I didn't tell anyone about my son being in prison because I didn't want people to judge him  or maybe even me, its like the ultimate failure as a parent, and people do still blame the parent..maybe you should have done this..or that, its the blame game that hurts.

But I to, have three other children beside him, he is 32, a daughter 29 , a daughter 25, and my youngest son 10, it has been the hardest thing Ive done to carry on and support my other kids and have a "normal" life outside , knowing he is "inside".

You as a parent feel you are pulled in all these different directions, I know you said you are coping better than her , but he is her "child" and it is not the same as a brother, I am glad you are supporting them both thats good to hear, my two older daughters also speak to him and visit  him in prison, and he is so grateful for the support, my youngest son is unaware of where is brother is.

Its like a loss and grief ,I am getting counselling it helps to talk to someone who isn't involved ,I would be happy to talk to your mum as we have the same experience and feelings, Im sure she isn't deliberately behaving this way and maybe you are right she has lost one son to prison and another to someone else , its really hard for anyone to truly understand unless they have been through it, don't be to hard on her, maybe she is just scared of losing you to... 

Take care, Im thinking of you both.