The summer months bring many celebrations, including weddings and graduations, and this summer I have attended two weddings and one graduation.
They were lots of fun and it was a wonderful opportunity to pause and focus on the important life changes starting for these loved ones. At each of these joyous events, the participants were being celebrated to mark the beginning of their new futures either as a wedded couple or a person seeking to launch a successful career.
But today’s post is about weddings. Not the dress or the cake but instead I’m thinking about the rings and the vows. The promises said and the circles of gold exchanged as public commitments of love.
Nothing so publicly represents your marriage and commitment to another as wearing a wedding ring. By slipping that band on your finger, you are announcing that your life and, especially your heart, belongs to someone else.
So what is a person to do with their ring when their loved one dies?
Do you continue to wear the ring your loved one gave you? Or do you remove it?
This is a HUGE issue for widows and widowers. When your loved one tragically dies, you are no longer married to that person anymore even though it still feels as though you are. And it will feel that way for a long time. I know lots of widows who continue to wear their wedding rings and would never think of taking them off.
And that’s okay for your wedding rings are a reminder of the person who gave them to you. It’s up to you when and if you decide not to wear them anymore.
In my case, I wore my wedding rings for about two years after my husband’s death. I didn’t plan it that way; it just sort of evolved.
The first year following my husband’s death was a year of surviving from minute to minute, day to day. I don’t remember if I even thought about my wedding rings. I probably looked at them and twisted them on my finger but I don’t think I gave them much thought.
During the second year, I started playing around with taking my rings off of my finger. There were more days when I was feeling weird about wearing them when I knew I wasn’t married. But I still wasn’t ready to take them off.
One day, I remember looking down at my hand and staring at those rings and let myself think about all the memories connected to them. I began to realize the time had come to take them off. It was difficult to reach this point of knowing that I no longer had a husband even though I still loved him. “You’re just not married anymore,” I thought to myself. “I know you wish it were different but he’s not coming back.”
I slowly slid my engagement and my wedding rings off my finger. I knew it was time to say good-bye. I didn’t want to but I felt it was important for me to do. Without the rings, my finger looked vulnerable, matching my emotional state since the day of my husband’s death.
As I dropped them into a small glass jewelry holder that I keep on my bedroom chest of drawers, I mentally traveled back to our beautiful winter wedding. What a special day it was.
It didn’t occur to me to discuss this with my son. With all that was going on in his life, I honestly never thought he would notice my hands and whether I was wearing my wedding rings or not. But I was wrong. One day when I was turning the light on in a room, he grabbed my hand.
“Mom! Where are your rings?” he asked me. He sounded worried and at first I think he thought I might have lost my rings.
“I took them off,” I said quietly. “Daddy’s been dead for two years. I know it sounds weird for you to hear this but I’m not married anymore. It doesn’t feel right to me that I am wearing wedding rings when I don’t have a husband.”
“But I want you to put them back on,” he said.
“Why?” I said. “I don’t get it. Why do you care if I have my wedding rings on or not?”
He hesitated. He looked down at the floor. “Because I think they protect you,” he said. “Please put them back on.”
I hugged him tightly and then explained that it was going to be okay and this was really the right thing to do. He kept looking at me like I was making a big mistake. I told him he had to trust me.
“Please believe me when I tell you that I love you very much,” I told him. “This is something I have to do for me.”
That is what happened for me and how I reached the decision about what to do with my wedding rings. You need to do what is comfortable for you.
If you’re not ready to take off your wedding rings after your loved one dies, then you could move your rings to your right hand, you could wear your rings on a chain around your neck or you could have the rings made into other pieces of jewelry for yourself or your children.
Or you could keep wearing your wedding rings for as long as you wish.
There is no right or wrong answer to this sensitive issue. Grief is as individual and as unique as the person you lost through death.
Give yourself the gift of time and you will find your way.