Many widow/widowers may wonder when is the proper time to remove an engagement ring and/or wedding ring and, after doing so, what should be done with them. The only possible response to this question is -- do whatever makes you feel comfortable.
As there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there is also no right or wrong thing to do with your rings or a time frame that needs to be followed. You may choose to wear your rings for the rest of your life, or you may choose to remove them immediately after your spouse’s death. Trust yourself to do what is best for you, and bear in mind that what is true for you today may be different tomorrow.
I stopped wearing my engagement ring right away. Since the stone sat high up, I always took it off while I was in the house anyway so as not to bang it on something while doing housework. When I came home after my late husband’s death, I took off my ring, as usual, and it never felt right putting it on again. I still wore my wedding ring for about two more months.
I didn’t know anyone else my age (39 at the time) who had lost a spouse nor was I aware of any grief support groups. Consequently, I didn’t have anyone that I could ask about the proper protocol. Little did I know that there is no “proper” protocol ~ only what feels right to each individual.
I would look down at my hand and see this symbol of marriage and think logically – well, I’m not married anymore so I guess I should not wear my ring. I was also pretty angry at my husband for taking his own life and felt that if he could leave me, I didn’t need to wear a symbol of our union.
In retrospect, if I had to do it over again, I probably would have worn my wedding band a lot longer, but, again, once I took it off, it didn’t seem right to put it back on. It’s too bad we can not lead our lives in retrospect -- only going forward. Accordingly, we can only do what we feel is the right thing at that moment in time. My finger did feel bare for quite a while, for I had been married for just shy of twenty years. I never wore another ring of any type until I married again eight years after my loss.
Later on, as I met others in a similar circumstances, this topic usually came up and everyone seemed to have a different idea. Some of the suggestions I heard included:
~Continue to wear your rings on your left hand
~Move the rings to your right hand
~Make the rings into other pieces of jewelry – either for yourself or your children
~Attach the rings to a chain worn around the neck
~Put them away and pass them on to your children when they are ready to get married
Thirteen years after my late husband’s death, I took the stone from my engagement ring and had it formed into another piece of jewelry. Our wedding rings are still sitting in my safe deposit box waiting to be given to my sons, if they so desire.
You can get lots of opinions on what to do, but, in the end, I suggest you listen to your heart and remember that there are no time limits. As I said before, it is impossible to make a wrong decision, and, like me, it may take many years to decide on the final disposition of your rings.
Ellen Gerst is a Life Coach specializing in grief and relationships and the author of several books on grief, including "A Practical Guide to Widow/erhood," born out of Ellen's own experiences as a young widow; 101 Tips and Thoughts on Coping with Grief, an easy-to read reference guide filled with suggestions for every day use on moving through the grief journey; and "Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story." "Love After Loss" is a blueprint on how to use her successful method to redesign your life to include a new love connection after the loss of a partner. Connect with Ellen on Facebook at Love After Loss (for daily relationship tips) and on Thin Threads of Grief & Renewal (for inspirational coping with grief thoughts). Click for more information on grief related services and books..