The Ring Cycle

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The wedding ring issue. What to do, what to do?

John wore a ring that we bought together, engraved with our initials and the date of our marriage. At some point in the ICU he was puffed up with fluids. One of his marvelous nurses suggested that he take it off while he still could, since she would have to cut it off otherwise. I don’t think he ever removed his ring, even during his idiotic affairs. I slipped it on my own finger, since we didn’t want to lose it—and there it remained for quite some time.

It’s a dilemma to know what to do with the rings. I didn’t remove my wedding ring for a good long time, in fact for nearly a year. I experimented with putting different rings in place of my engagement ring, although I had also done that when John was still alive. Around the date of our wedding anniversary, I bought myself a strong gold necklace and put his ring on that, along with a gold charm of the Space Needle and a gold charm of the state of Texas given to me many years ago by a dear friend. The three symbolize the journey of our life together—we met in Texas, we parted in Seattle. At the same time, I shifted my own wedding ring—which had been my grandmother’s, engraved with their initials and their wedding date in 1918—to my right hand and it feels right there.

The other day, I was chatting with a widow friend who had celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary in October of 2008. Her husband died in March of 2009. Three weeks later, she was playing bridge with some friends when one suddenly said, “Oh, I’m so pleased to see you’re still wearing your wedding rings!” Three weeks after he died, following fifty years of marriage. For heaven’s sake. Was she supposed to take them off the minute he died? What for? To signify her single-hood? To catch herself another man? Just because she wasn’t technically “married” any longer? I’m certain that the rings were the last thing on her mind, but even if they weren’t, she can wear whatever jewelry she wants, widowed or not. And that particular jewelry, symbolism aside, had been on her hand for fifty years, longer in the case of the engagement ring! I’m sure it didn’t even cross her mind until someone pointed it out. That’s a shame.

Another friend had divorced her philandering husband and flung her rings from the deck of a Washington State Ferry into Puget Sound. Sounds cathartic, doesn’t it? She was, of course, smart enough to remove the diamonds first. I think there’s a certain anger toward the symbolism of the rings which happens in divorce but isn’t there in the case of widowhood. I was certainly disgusted at the rings when John was the one doing the philandering. I can understand wanting to fling them into the deepest, coldest water I could find.

But as it is, I still wear rings on my left ring finger. I just like it. Partly, it reminds me of the idea of being married and everything that meant. Symbolically, like a nun. But truthfully, I have several lovely rings and only have two fingers they fit. One of them is the traditional wedding ring finger. So there you go. If you want to know my status, well, don’t be afraid to ask. But you should know what the answer is: I’m a widow. I’m no longer married. And I wear lots of rings.

UPDATE: July 2009—Oddly, I’ve developed some arthritis in the middle joint of my left pinky finger. Many years ago, I sliced the side of it open on some glass and had restoration surgery done on it, which has probably accellerated the inevitable arthritis I’ll be getting in all my joints. But the joint has become somewhat sensitive and was rubbing against the ring I was wearing on my wedding-ring-finger. Therefore: I had to remove the ring. Perhaps a sign of some kind? A goose from beyond to remove the symbolism? Just getting old and creaky? Who’s to say. At any rate, I’m now ringless on my left hand and my joints feel better.

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30 Responses to: The Ring Cycle

  1. Malin says:

    I never thought of this until someone commented on me wearing my ring still…..I was widowed nearly 2 years ago but don’t feel ready to take it off yet……the connection was not broken by us, not our choice so what’s the harm in keeping it on? Thanks for bringin this subject up!!

  2. PracticalWidow says:

    I think the critical point there is “what’s the harm”? If it makes you feel alright, then fine. Wearing of rings is symbolic, it does mean a particular thing. Wearing of particular clothing styles also carries symbolism. So long as we’re all OK with that, well hey, whatever works. I like wearing my rings, they keep a connection for me that feels right. Glad to hear you’ve found what’s right for you.

  3. Mark says:

    My wedding ring was always a little tight and I have just had it cut off after breaking a bone in my hand. My wife died 18 months ago, I miss her desperately and have wondered if I should get the ring mended, and put it back on my left ring finger. This discussion has helped, thank you. It is obviously the right thing to do.

  4. Georgia Vallejos says:

    After I was widowed, I had no intention of taking off my wedding rings. However, about three or four years later, that choice was made for me when my rings became too tight to wear. Not only would I have to get a new band, but the center stone was also in need of repair, so I decided to retire my wedding rings to my safe, and get a widow’s ring to wear. It was the right choice for me. Not wearing any ring wouldn’t feel right – it would be as if I had never married or was divorced. I love the widow’s ring – it is who I am now, so I relate to it. Also, I feel like I am honoring my husband’s memory by wearing it. It is just a white gold solitare with a black sapphire in the middle, surrounded by diamonds. Like wedding rings, a widow’s ring can be any kind of ring, but traditionally has a black stone of some sort.

  5. PracticalWidow says:

    What a great concept, I hadn’t heard of this before, but I think it’s a nice idea. And I especially love that it feels so right for you.

  6. Adele says:

    My ever lovin’ man passed on Sept. 19th of 2012 at home in his chair…..I was always afraid to wear my rings because I have water weight on and off and I didn’t want to loose them. 3 weeks after he passed I had been wearing his ring on my right hand because my fingers were larger..and I lost his ring.
    It’s horrible! It is somewhere between the bedroom and the truck. I have taken apart the sink drain..and still do not have hot water in my bathroom because of it.
    I have been on my hands and knees looking with one of those 5000000 candle power lites. And the next step I have is to buy a metal detector.(I”m saving up for).
    So now, I am so afraid to wear any of my wedding rings at all in fear of losing them.
    Now I am looking for a ring that I can wear on my ring finger that tells the story without my words…..and my tears.
    I KNOW that he is close to me. And ‘that’ means more to me than anything…any material object …or words.
    It just hurts that I lost the ring that he never took off. The ring that had been so worn down from all the things that he had ever worked on that all of the delicate engraving was so gone. The ring that was worn so thin in the inside area that it looked like it would just break right through.
    THAT ring told a story of a man that loved his wife so much that and worked so hard to take care of his family and ……i’m crying and can’t see to type….sorry

  7. Pumpkin_59 says:

    my husband died in dec .. He had become a acholic and our marriage been strained for quite a while before he died …i only wore my rings when i was out in public for hair appts or nail appts & ect .. The day before he died i put on my rings odd.. i was visting my parents and got phone call he died .. been wearing them since but still fighting the negitive last 2 yrs of marriage I had been thinking of divorce before he died… been looking at my wedding ring and engagement ring and anniv ring decideing to move on with life not to date but to get job after yrs of not working and ect… Id only been marrieed 7rs to him :(

  8. barbara says:

    My husband passed away very suddenly, said goodbye and kissed in the morning got a call from the doctors office he had collapsed after a stress test and was in critical condition, he was already dead when the office had called my house. 7 months have passed since he died. We were married 17 years together 20 yrs had know him since i was 13 I was 47 when he died. I do not think I will ever take off my engagement ring or wedding band, because I am still married and will always be, my husband is here with me just not physically. I do not think taking off your ring or keeping it on is right or wrong, I think it depends on what is right for the surviving spouse. For me right now it stays it might change I do not know.

  9. PracticalWidow says:

    So sorry about your sudden loss. Your ring solution sounds perfect for you. I find a great deal of comfort, even years out from J’s death, in wearing our rings. These days I wear my rings on the right and wear his ring either on a necklace or on either hand. But I’m never without it.

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  11. Katie says:

    My husband passed away from cancer on 1-29-12 after battling for 16 months. We married at a young age of 20 and was widowed at the young age of 46. My husband had not worn his ring for many years due to his type of employment around equipment where a ring could catch so I have been trying to figure out what to do with his ring. I saw the post on the widow ring and I am thinking of taking his band to my jeweler to see if something can be made like that for me. Thanks for the idea.

  12. Darla says:

    My husband passed away suddenly from a heart attack two years ago. We had been married 29 years. I took my ring off about 4 months later, had the diamonds removed, the gold melted down and had a beautiful cross pendant made out of it. My cross can be worn around my neck.at all times and know that he is still with me.

  13. PracticalWidow says:

    I think that’s lovely, what a good idea. I love the idea of forging something new blended together from what you shared and what was so meaningful. Thanks for sharing that with us.

    —the practical widow

  14. Karen Martin says:

    My husband died of cancer June 9, 2012 after 44 years of marriage. I’ve been struggling with when to take off my wedding rings. I have his in a drawer and now I know what to do with his. Tomorrow would have been our 46th anniversary and as soon as I finish cleaning my rings, I’ll be wearing them and doing so comfortably. You see, I really love the rings and it just seems wrong to have them in a safe deposit box when they belong with me and all the memories. So glad I found your blog.

  15. Michelle says:

    My husband died 3 weeks ago today. We both lost our wedding rings about a year ago in a boating incident and I have been devistated ever since his passing that we would never have the chance to replace them. We were married just short of 20 years. Our anniversary was 17 days after his passing. I been wearing a different ring on my ring finger since his passing because I was afraid people would notice my empty finger and get the wrong impression. But I want something special ob that finger and I read the reply about a widows ring. I am researching jewerly designs now to have somethibg special made. Thanks for your article and thanks to my fellow widows/widowers for their ideas and replys. Mrs Daniel P Williams Jr (now and forever)

  16. Francesca says:

    Oh Michelle, our husbands died around the same time. I sympathize deeply with your grief. I keep miy wedding band on my left ring finger. I know that the death dissolved the VOWS we made, but, in the words of the Christian scriptures (I Corinthians, Chapter 13) Love itself never dies. My hubby died after a brief and scary illness–pulmonary fibrosis. We had been married only 8 years but were soulmates from the start. All of us who comment on this post have their own beliefs and traditions. My husband was a Christian and so am; I. Our belief is that Love is Eternal. They had to remove his wedding band in ICU because of swelling. Broke my heart. But our wedding bands to me symbolize the blessing of our love for each other, a love that transformed us forever.

  17. Meredith says:

    Our rings have a history. We had bands designed and made with a unique cherry blossom and gum leaf design as an attractive symbol of our heritage (Japan for G., Australia for me). The jeweler kept asking when our wedding was, and we kept reminding her we were together, wanted to wear rings to show that, but had no current plans to marry. We married in the hospital after G. was diagnosed with late stage cancer, we hoped we would grow old together, but we suddenly wanted to be married for as long as we could be. The rings we had worn for nearly two years were taken off, blessed by our priest, and replaced as wedding rings. We had 16 days of married life, 10 of those days in the hospital. G passed away on Sept 16 this year, not quite two months ago. G’s ring fits perfectly on my ring finger of my right hand, and perfectly compliments my ring, which remains on my left hand. These very personal symbols of our love and life together will stay just where they are for now, I am ‘only’ 48, not sure what life has in store for me, but I love to turn G’s ring gently on my finger and bring back that beautiful moment when we promised ourselves to each other publically, the way we had privately many years before.

  18. Colleen says:

    Complicated issue. I’m 30, I was widowed at 28 after 7 months of marriage. He fought cancer for 3 of the 4 years we were together. I focus on how lucky I am to have found my soul mate when so many people miss out

    Wearing it on my left hand, lots of people asked about my husband – and I can’t respond without my eyes welling up with years – 2 years later. I’m okay talking about him when I’m ready, but not when I’m caught off guard.

    I wear them on my right hand- but I switch rings (he bought me 3 over those years). I also took his wedding band, full of diamonds (he called it his superbowl ring) and made a ring for me. It’s hard to wear though – people always comment on it.

    I’m just not sure what the answer is… I think being 30 complicates it all. Maybe not…

  19. Page says:

    My husband passed away in Feb 2013 after a long illness. He was a Vietnam Vet and poisoned by Agent Orange. We were married for 30 years. He was my prom date and knew me better than anyone else ever will. Wanted to do something special for the first Christmas without him so took his wedding ring and turned it into a pair of earrings. I liked the symbolism of splitting the ring since my heart is broken, but at the same time changing it into something different. My rings are still comfortingly on my finger.

  20. PracticalWidow says:

    I love taking the “superbowl” ring and making a ring for you. All these years later, I have not gone a day without John’s ring being with me–on a necklace or on my hand. I don’t know if there’s really an answer per se, but I think you’ve got a good solution that works for you.

  21. PracticalWidow says:

    Earrings, what a nice idea!

  22. Barbie L says:

    My soulmate passed on 10-11-12; We were together 6 years – then married for 15 months. Thank you for the ideas. My husband’s ring is a large distressed silver band. I’m thinking of sizing it down so I could wear it on my thumb. My engagement ring is a Marquise and it fits right in the middle of the double band with diamonds. I’m still looking for what to do with my rings. They are so perfect and beautiful I want to wear them but just not sure which finger to re-size them for.

  23. Barbie L says:

    UPDATE: this morning when I went into my jewelry draw to retrieve my rings, I grabbed a ring box to put them in for transportation. When I opened it I just cried. Inside was a beautiful gold and silver band that my husband had given me to wear in times when I didn’t want to wear the diamond – like when we went camping or boating!!!! What a wonderful gift to find from him. I now have a RING FROM HIM to wear on my ring finger!!!!

  24. PracticalWidow says:

    What a wonderful discovery and a beautiful solution!

  25. Lisa says:

    Thanks for your blog and everyone’s responses. I am 38 and lost my husband a few weeks ago. I had no idea my rings would be an issue, but they are. On…off…a new ring…no idea what is right for me, but hard.

  26. Madathim says:

    Pumpkin_59: I lost my husband of 20 years to cancer. We too had a difficult relationship, and I now realize that our difficulties must have been caused by his illness. I miss my husband but am so angry at him for not trying harder and sooner to take care of himself. When he was healthy he worked hard, drank coffee non-stop, stayed out late to drink with his coworkers, ignored the wife and kids at home. When he became ill his vanity regarding his hair prevented him from continuing with chemo. I am glad to have stuck by him and cared for him right up to the end so that I don’t have any guilt weighing on my mind. I feel that I am better off without him, but it is very clear the teens he left behind are not and I am bitter about the mess I’m left with. I still wear my wedding ring–I earned that status (and the right to be left alone!)

  27. Tracy says:

    I’m a 47 year old widow. My husband and I were married for 28 years and dated 4 years prior to that. He passed away in 2012 and I then took my rings off and put them in a secure location. I’ve found myself putting them back and wearing them again after two years. I see people staring and wanting to inquire but I guess out of respect they don’t. Is it inappropriate that I am choosing to wear them again?

  28. Melissa Hunt says:

    My husband passed away January 29th, 2014 by choice. Monday would have been our 10th wedding anniversary. I’m only 30 and had spent half my life with him. I was wondering if you knew of a solution to a widows ring. We didn’t have any wedding rings. I miss him terribly as we have 3 young boys I have to raise on my own while trying to build a career in the USAF. Thank you for your story.

  29. kennaday says:

    I lost my husband in July 2013. I leave my rings on because I didn’t get a divorce, why should I take them off, is what I ask myself. I am not looking for someone else. Someone will just have to accept it of they are interested in me. I tried replacing it with a different ring for a while but it didn’t feel right. I felt like I was breaking a bond I wasn’t ready for. Plus I still want to be left alone and the ring does the trick

  30. mindy says:

    I am 33 years old and was married for almost three years. My husband passed on Sept 10th 2013. I still wear my ring and his on my right hand. He always wore it and they had to take it off of him in the icu. It’s been hard but I feel like the rings help. I like the idea of a widows ring. I’ve never heard of that before…

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