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How to heal after incarceration

The path to healing after incarceration may be long, but it is not impossible. There are several ways to begin the process of healing, but one of the most important is to build healthy relationships and gain access to all needed resources.

Get a mentor

One of the most important steps of healing is finding a mentor to help you through the process. Mentors are often returning citizens themselves who have created a successful life and can help you do the same. Some mentors are community members who are there to help you succeed. They can be a volunteer or a family member. Mentors help introduce returning citizens back into society while also advocating for them and aiding in finding resources.


It is important to be involved in the community where you can reestablish yourself, make new friends and find purpose. Making new friends is one of the ways a mentor can help you succeed. Volunteer work is an excellent way to fill your downtime. Helping others in need not only gives you a sense of purpose and community, but it can help keep you away from triggers that might lead you back down the path you’re trying to avoid. You can find various volunteer opportunities online.

Rebuild your relationships

Building healthy relationships can be tricky, but here are a few basic tips to get you started.

First, make room for the important people in your life. This can mean watching your child’s favorite TV show with them, helping make a meal, going on a family walk, or just sitting and talking.

Second, have open communications and accept that things may be awkward at first, and that’s okay. Work with your family to build trust where your honest feelings and thoughts can be shared openly. If you’re used to keeping most things secret, try to communicate more and encourage your family to communicate more with you. Be open to the hard feelings and topics.

Third, know it takes time. You won’t reconnect immediately. There will be rough spots and fights and discouraging moments. When those come, keep pushing forward and you’ll make it through. Learn more relationship-building tips here.

Find the resources you need

Finding the resources you need can be frustrating, intimidating, and humiliating. But whether you need employment options or substance abuse treatment, know there are resources out there for you. If you’re not sure where to begin, try getting help from family or friends. Or if that’s not an option, go to your local library. Librarians can be incredibly helpful in showing you what resources are available in your community and how to access them.

If you’re the friend or family member working to help a returning citizen, remember that progress takes time. Don’t try to rush anything. Focus on the most important needs first. Think of it as someone starting a survival game. They will need to locate resources to help them survive and exist safely. It’s unlikely you’ll be ready to work on your relationship if you’re worried about providing for your family or struggling with mental health.

Remember, you can do it!

The healing path will take time and work, but it will be rewarding in the end. Many returning citizens will need to make amends with their pasts to move forward. Some will have to sever all ties with their past lives and relationships in order to start anew. But no matter where you are, you’ll always be able to find new friends and people who are like family.

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