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Death is never easy, but to lose a loved one while confined and restricted from being able to have some of the most basic experiences of what it means to be human is a maddening continuance of punishment and has the potential to cause more harm than good.

I have suffered the death of six loved ones throughout my incarceration. The death of my sister was emotionally torturous and mentally exhausting. 

I try to be strong when I call home and talk to my mother, comforting her the best way I can through a 15-minute phone call that is constantly interrupted by prison recordings. I hear my mother’s cries over the death of her child and I cry out too. Our tears are the closest thing to a hug. 

I committed a crime, but that does not make me less human. It does not take away my need to give and receive comfort from loved ones. 

Incarceration modifies an inmate’s ability to express the fullness of self when dealing with death. I cannot just pick up the phone, nor can I physically see my family when I am in need to help me through my ball of emotions and vice versa. I am limited in my options for comfort. Prison allows inmates to have visits, but there are no provisions for those who are physically unable to travel. 

However, I am grateful for the solid friendships established throughout my incarceration. I don’t have to be completely alone when dealing with life, though nothing and no one can fill the emptiness inside caused by my yearning to see and hold a loved one that I’ll never have the chance to see and hold again. 

As the years go by, I have learned to accept the things I have no control over as I look more and more to God and pray for the necessary strength and courage to help me through life.

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.

Nichol Lee is a writer incarcerated in Pennsylvania.