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To lose someone so dear while locked up is a terrible thing. You feel as if you have come to a point in your life where all of your existence is no more. The very presence of everything that gives you joy, peace, hope and love has been taken away. 

I couldn’t come to grips with the news of my grandmother’s passing. My ex-wife told me during the last few minutes of my phone call.

“Your grandmother made that transition,” she said as I drifted into a dark place. Did she say what I think she said?  No, it can’t be! My grandmother is dead. I wanted to have her repeat what she had just said, but I knew she would only say what I wished to disbelieve. And the truth does hurt. 

Mental Health Services has been helping me somewhat deal with everything that comes my way. Talking to a psychiatrist is a No-No in this environment. It’s almost like snitching to the police. Nobody knows how I struggled with losing my grandma, with missing my mom and other family members, with enduring these losses while doing this life sentence for a robbery under California’s Three Strikes Law. 

I had so many mixed emotions when she died, and nobody knew what was taking place inside my head. The how, why and when only led to more questions. Was I able to bear the answer to them all? Not at the time. I felt as if  I were in a trance, oblivious to all that was going on around me. 

“Have a seat and I’ll call somebody for you,” the correctional officer said with a concerned look after I told him the bad news I had received on the phone. 

Minutes later, the walk across the yard to the clinic was difficult. I felt as if my legs would give way at any moment. All the strength I had was gone. The officer had to hold me up as every step forward became unbearable. I had no recollection of walking past numerous stares and whispers from other inmates. Clearly, I was in shock. 

That was four years ago. I lost a woman who was patiently waiting for me to return home. Although she was my mother’s mother, she was like a mother to me. Always so nice, caring, protective, and spoiled me every chance she got. Of all her grandkids I was the favorite. 

Finally, I had to make an appointment with the one I knew would listen. They tell you here at prison to put a “7362” form in, requesting to see Mental Health, if you need to talk. Unfortunately, I’m not requesting to see or speak with them. I’ve done that too many times and keep forgetting that they are paid trained professionals only doing their job. They have no further concern with me once I walk out of their office. This individual I’m going to see now is the best at his craft of listening. I was referred to him by my mom. It had  been awhile since I really opened up to someone who understands it all. 

“When you’re ready,” he said.

I breathed in and breathed out! I finally got the message that I can say anything to him if I trust him with all of my heart and take what he says to be truthful. 

I sat up straighter in my chair, clasping my hands together and decided to go all in. There was so much bottled up. I realized that I could speak freely and not feel ashamed or judged. I wanted him to help me escape the reality of my hurt. Only he could do so. 

That person was God.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Chelminski Walker is a writer incarcerated at California.