The tears were flowing on Sunday’s all-new Real Housewives of New Jersey, as Joe Giudice said goodbye to his wife Teresa Giudice and their four daughters to begin his 41-month prison sentence for fraud.
Dressed in a white v-neck T-shirt and surrounded by his family — including brother-in-law Joe Gorga and sister-in-law Melissa Gorga — Joe walked hand-in-hand with Teresa from the steps of their family home. The two embraced in a tender hug before getting into the car that would drive Joe to his new home at New Jersey’s Fort Dix Correctional Institution.
The day before his exit, Joe told Teresa he’s going to use his time in prison to improve who he is as a person.
“You learn two things in there,” he explained. “You either learn how to become a criminal or a better person. I’m gonna try to become a better person. I’ve accepted what I have to do, so I’m ready to go in and get it over with.”
“I’m not really scared of too many things,” he told viewers. “Every day you live for the time that you’re here. You can’t predict what’s going to happen tomorrow. You can’t even predict what’s going to happen in a few minutes. Nobody’s really prepared and mentally ready to go in. But it’s really happening. I’m going in.”
For Teresa, being separated from Joe again so soon after her 11-month prison stay is hard. But any time away from Joe feels foreign to her.
“I know Joe my whole life,” she confessed. “His dad was at the hospital when I was born. We grew up together. We used to play house when we were little together. He was at my sweet 16. we were dancing at my sweet 16. In 16 years, I’ve never been away from [him]. Now I’m going to see what [he] went through — it’s going to be harder.”
She added: “I’m just going to pray and God willing everything will be all good.”
“It’s gonna suck all over again,” he said. “I had to wait a year for you to come back and now three months we separating again.”
“Whatever mistakes we made — you paid your debt, I’m ready to pay my debt,” he continued. “I’ll be fine. As long as you mind your business, be humble, do what you have to do — nobody’s gonna bother you.”
To prepare for his goodbye, the two gathered with 150 friends and family at a local restaurant for a goodbye celebration — complete with a mechanical bull.
Said Melissa: “Tonight is bittersweet. It’s really sweet to see everyone come out and support him — they want to get that last laugh in with him. But there is that sober feeling because everybody knows what’s about to happen.”
“It’s almost like a funeral,” explained Teresa’s brother Joe Gorga. “You’re not going to see this person for 41-months. What do you say to them?”
Teresa and Joe’s daughters were taking his leaving especially hard. “The girls have been dealing with Joe not being here differently,” Teresa revealed. “I would say [10-year-old] Milania‘s the most vocal about it because they had a special bond together.”
She said 15-year-old daughter Gia was taking the exit especially hard, crying all day. Joe asked her to “step it up like when Mommy was gone,” adding that he’d be home “before the blink of an eye.”
“You have these four little girls —their daddy is going to be gone for 41-months,” Joe Gorga said. “What do you say to them? What do you do? It’s kind of like you’re lost. It’s a terrible situation.”
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“I’ve heard that when things happen to children when they’re younger, it stays with them and it scars them for life,” Teresa continued. “I’m trying everything in my power that that doesn’t happen to my daughters. I’m their rock. They can always lean on me and we’ll get through this.”
The girls spent their last days with their dad playing outdoors and hanging at home. After he left, the girls joined Teresa Giudice in bed, where they prayed for Joe.
“Please God, make my dad come home quick,” Milania said. “I miss him very much.”
Teresa recited her own prayer. “Please God bring my husband home,” she prayed. “My daughters need their daddy.”
The Real Housewives of New Jersey airs Sundays (8 p.m. ET) on Bravo.