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I face many challenges as an incarcerated parent. The feelings and emotions are difficult. How to deal with those feelings and emotions can be confusing. I try to focus on the most important and vital challenge: to rehabilitate myself and not come back here, but it’s an ugly situation to be in. 

Many feelings and emotions surface when dealing with this issue: anger, sadness, worry, self-loathing, and despair. It feels like an emotional rollercoaster that will only end when I parole. It’s a heavy price to pay. 

Digesting these feelings and finding a healthy place for them to land is a complex experience. If I don’t process them in a healthy manner, then I’m liable to get in trouble due to being overwhelmed. I don’t want to find myself in that situation, so I try to find healthy outlets for coping like working out, reading self-help literature, and employing breathing techniques. 

The biggest challenge I’ve faced is rehabilitation. Prison isn’t rehabilitative, so I have to look in the mirror and ask myself what I need to change in order to not come back here. I have to search for and find the help that I need. Most importantly, I have to admit that I need help. 

It’s not easy for me to admit this, but surrendering is winning. 

As a father, I love my children. But I realized that I just can’t say it. I have to show I love them through action. 

Love is a verb. I am willing to change, grow, and stop all the actions that contradict my love for my children. They are important to me, and I am important to them. So it’s about time to act like it. 

As someone once said, “The biggest mistake in life is not learning from past mistakes.”

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.

Fernando J. Rivas is a writer and artist incarcerated in California.