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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71 Responses to: The Ring Cycle

  1. Monica says:

    Wear your ring, if it makes you feel good. My ring never fit me very well. It was a beautiful setting. It was my husband’s ring that I a had inscribed that means the most to me. “I do, I do, I do” the date of our wedding and the TMD (“truly, madly deeply”). I don’t wear my ring because of the fitting but I will pass both rings onto my children. Lost my husband to cancer the day before Valentine’s Day 2013. Miss him every day.

  2. Rosalie says:

    I lost my husband in November of 2011 just three months after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. he died 2 months shy of our 14th wedding anniversary and 2 month after his 65th birthday. I still wear my wedding ring on my left hand yet today as I have since it was placed there by him. I intend to wear it till my dying day. That is why he still wears it even after he passed. I had him buried wearing the one ring he vowed to never take off. And someday when we are together again he will see I too kept my vow to never take off the ring he placed on my finger as a symbol of his undying love for me.

  3. Libby Roland says:

    I barely ever wore my ring let alone my diamond and now that I have a job where I can wear my jewelry and not have to remove it I wear my rings all the time placing his along with mine on the same ring finger. Istill miss him today he’s been gone since July 1, 2013 I watched him die my arms from a long aneurysm called a blur

  4. Pam Leisey says:

    It is really nice and comforting to read these testimonials about marrriages and the ultimate sadness of losing your spouse and what on earth to do with the rings…..I have been going through the same conflict. My husband passed away suddenly on 11/3/13 of a heart attack at 58, I found him lingering between life and death and tried CPR and the EMT’s did everything they could to no avail and I was a widow at 48….at first I kept my band and ring on for dear life…then I started the switching around…engagement ring on right hand, band in pinky finger…emerald and diamond ring on wedding ring finger so on and so forth…took them all off and went the naked route for a while and my sister noticed and was so sad when I said, I’m not married anymore…so she sent me some info of having the ring or band or both put on a chain, just afraid of losing it…I think in time….I will be doing that, perhaps visiting my jeweler where we purchased them and they also do creations and have it all banded together and maybe made into a gorgeous necklace….It’s so hard….grief is so painful physically and mentally….the challenges we face moment to moment are heartwrenching. I thank you ladies for your input…I just happened to google the question of what to do with the rings and I ended up here….I have hopes and prayers for all widows and widowers that peace comes at moments of need…along with a fabulous grief counsellor every Friday, I am “hanging in”..I miss him more than ever..he was my whole life for almost 30 years….

  5. Carolyn Boyd says:

    I have been widowed for 17 months now, and hadn’t given a thought to removing my rings until a widower friend asked my advice about his wedding ring. I feel at the moment that I don’t want to take them off ever. I was so happy and proud to wear them, and that hasn’t changed.

  6. Connie Bielen says:

    I too, have been wondering what to do about wearing my wedding ring since my husband passed suddenly 14 months ago. We were married 28 years and together almost 30 years. At first I thought I will never take it off, but I have tossed around the idea of taking them to our favorite jeweler and taking the diamonds from both bands and having a new ring created, more like an anniversary band that we could never afford on our 25th anniversary. And that way still having some special meaning. Any advice would be welcomed….

  7. billwtoo says:

    My wife went to heaven Feb 26, 2015. After almost 15 years of dealing with different cancers, treatments, ups and downs, she left me one morning. After 3 months I decided to switch my wedding band to my right hand. A neighbor asked why I did such a thing and thus started my search for other widow’s and widower’s feelings on the subject. It has been over 4 months since I lost her and it still hurts so very much. We were teen-aged sweethearts and we’re married for more than 53 years. She was the the only girl I’ve dated since I was 17. Dating other women you say? We’ll that’s another (scary) subject all by its self.
    I can only say what someone recently said to me, “Stay strong.”

  8. Ann says:

    I read the article and the comments here. I find no information that is helpful to answering this question. I think the only real answer is wear them until you feel the need to do otherwise. I am a widow for over a year and have always taken my rings off when I’m home simply because jewelry bothers me to wear. One day when I forgot to put it on before work a co-worker made the announcement that I was “looking” for a man. I quickly corrected him but it was quite embarrassing. Another time when I was talking to a woman about losing my husband over a year ago she asked if I was remarried. I said of course not, why would you think that? She said because you are wearing a wedding ring. I soon figured out that there are so many different perceptions out there about the rings that you can only do what you feel in your heart is right. Wearing them for your lifetime is fine but if you choose not to there should be no guilt. You have fulfilled your vow until death do you part. Every individual losing a spouse will have to play this by how they feel and no one anywhere under any circumstances has the right to judge or even inquire ask why you are or why you are not wearing your ring. That is your business.

  9. Kelly says:

    I lost my husband suddenly on 12/30/12 and still wear my rings. I have four daughters (ages 5-17) and sometimes when we are out complete strangers comment on how tough it must be for my husband to live with all these females, etc. I think because I wear my rings they assume I am married. And why wouldn’t they? But when that moment occurs it is always quite awkward and we usually nervously laugh and don’t give the stranger too much info. Partly because it’s still painful to talk about it. And also because I don’t feel the need to tell them about our lives. I still do not want to take off my wedding band and engagement ring. It still feels right to wear them. I just don’t like to be put on the spot. That being said, yesterday I purchased a hematite wedding band and I have placed it on my wedding ring finger along with my other rings. Hoping this will encourage others (if they even glance at my finger before they talk to me) to do so with tact and inquire or mention a father or husband with a little more thoughtfulness. You truly cannot know what anyone else is going through or why they choose to wear a ring etc. I’m still not sure how I’ll go forward with my rings but this “widow” ring was only $5 so I’m going to see how I feel wearing it and go from there.

  10. Theresa says:

    I lost my husband of 41 years in January, 2015. In reading this post, I am comforted that I am not the only one that has questioned what to do. I, too, started playing musical fingers with my rings. I can’t let go completely. They have been a part of my life for so long. My thoughts have changed time and again. I began to feel uncomfortable wearing them on my wedding ring finger as if I was lying to the world. My choice was to continue to wear my rings, but on my right hand. It feels comfortable there. This widowhood thing is a process. Still having a hard time choosing “single” on forms. I recently sold a piece of property and it listed my name followed by the phrase “a single woman”. OUCH!!

  11. Gail burton says:

    My husband of 53yrs, passed away Dec,2014. I don’t feel like a widow. I still feel married. I will not take my beautiful rings, that he bought for me, off my finger.

  12. Emily says:

    I lost my husband 5 months ago we were married 40 yrs he passed away of Cancer. I had surgery the other day was told take off rings as i did my wedding band broke. My children asked me what i want to do. Right now i dont know if i should fix it or put them both away with my husbands wedding band any answers?

  13. Kim Shaw says:

    My husband, John, the love of my life and the best friend I will ever have, died on Saturday morning on February 4, 2012. He was 55, me 49. We were together for 18 years but married for only 5. I was blessed to be at the hospital and holding his hand when he went to be with the Lord. I still wear my wedding ring and engagement ring but have added the “third ring” or “widows ring”. It is a black steel ring with a small silver heart split in two. So my heart is broken forever, but I go on because John wants me to. Coworkers see my rings and have asked me if I’ve remarried. I’ve dressed in something that cheers me up, and they comment that “I’m putting myself out there again.” I reply no to the first and show my left hand to the second. Until it has happened to you, you will never understand. Peace and comfort to all of you, my “comrades” who have lost our spouses. There is no right answer for rings. Do what you feel in your heart. If you decide to take them off, it has no reflection on your love for your spouse. And to those who question, you really shouldn’t say anything to us. We have the right, and truthfully a need, to look nice and wear or not wear our rings without being considered on the hunt. Just let us be. This is going to take a really long time. God Bless.

  14. Karen says:

    My 65 year old husband died 3 years ago and I have just started to switch rings around. Looking at rings for something to commemorate our lives. A man at bridge noticed the first day I stopped wearing my wedding rings and tapped my finger! I plan to wear/not wear, mix or match different rings as I see fit. I don’t bother to worry about what is “right”.

  15. Lady J says:

    I lost my husband on 29th Dec., 2014. He was my heart, my friend and all to me.

  16. Lady J says:

    My husband slept with The Lord on 29th Dec., 2014. He was my heart, my friend and all to me. He went to met with his Lord right on my hand. We have been married for 25years, and I became a widow at the age of 49, he was 66. I believe the issue of the ring is personal because I am still wearing my ring. The pains of loosing a spouse is forever there but God is faithful. You can decide to wear or remove, I don’t think it matters to anybody. We will not know how people feels until you are in that position.

  17. Rachel says:

    I lost my husband of 15 years unexpected in July this year, he was 47. I’m 40 with two teenage children. I think the key thing is, that whatever is right for you is the right thing. Right now, only 10 weeks into this journey, taking it one challenging step at a time I have decided to wear my rings, and I also wear his on my right hand (we were pracitcally the same size so it fits) – I know it time that will change, and when it feels right I will change it. Right now I can’t even bear to deal with his wardrobe.

    Unfortunately well meaning people can say some thoughtless things in these situations, I just try and have my “sound bytes” or one liners at the ready to nip these akward moments in the bud.

  18. Vicki petersen says:

    My husband died suddenly this past February in an accident. Our 19th anniversary was exactly 6 months from the day I buried him. We have 2 young sons so I took mine off on my anniversary to put away for one of them to use. It was definitely hard to hand the set over to the jeweller to clean knowing that’d be the last time they’d be on my finger. It’s been almost a month and I’m ok. I did replace it with a dainty promise ring he gave me while dating. Maybe I’ll get a family ring made.

  19. Mike says:

    I became a widower on 3 September 2015. Just a bit over three weeks ago. I’ve been wondering about this “ring” question for a few days. I feel fortunate to have found some thoughts and opinions here. We were five months and five days from our 30th wedding anniversary. We had met about two years prior to that. I guess I will just wait until the time feels right. I noticed that not many men have commented. I wonder if its something men anguish over a lot less, or do they just not search for answers to this question.

  20. Jan says:

    I lost my husband on August 13, 2015 (just under 7 weeks at the time of this writing). When I went to bed tonight, I had a crying session. Felt like I would never stop. Got up and browsed and saw this. Of course, after such a short time, I’m wearing my rings and I wear his on my right ring finger. I can’t imagine ever taking them off. We would have been married 38 years this past September 17. He was my best friend and the love of my life. I miss him so! When does the hole in my heart start to mend?

  21. Debra says:

    Handling the loss of my husband didn’t hit me for a few months. I struggle not crying at work and have lost interest in most things. I noticed another widow had removed her rings. I was surprised and curious about when to remove mine. My prongs where worn so soon after my husbands passing I had his birthstone which also was the month he passed added to my engagement ring. I’m trying to heal my broken heart. We where married 25 years and 21 of those years he was very ill. He was determined to stay here with me a long as he possibly could. He loved serving God and loved me so very much. I feel lost and thought my rings would comfort me but sadly they do not. Somehow the new setting just reminds me he never got to see them, he often reminded me my diamond needed a new setting. A friend told me to make my husband proud by staying strong. I’m sorry but for a while I just can only be weak, but determined I’ll smile again. It’s been 7 months since he passed and at some time I’ll moved my rings from left to right. Then I believe I’ll buy a new ring to symbolize a new faze of life.

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