Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | September 28, 2011

Wedding Ring – the empty place

The wedding ring is a huge topic of discussion among the widowed community.

Do we wear it?

Wear on another finger?

Or the other hand?

On a chain?

Put it away?

If so, when?

Melt it down to make something new from something old?

What about our spouse’s ring?

I have thought a lot about the symbolism of the wedding ring, immersed as I have been in the myriad symbols that have appeared to me unbidden these many months.

After Jeff’s death, I wore my wedding and engagement rings almost defiantly. I really did feel married, as maybe only another widowed person could understand: how it is possible to remain solidly married even though you’ll never see each other again in this life. Many widowed people will tell you they still have plenty of heated marital conversations, albeit one sided (mostly)!

So I kept wearing my rings on the third finger of my left hand, and continued to feel married, and to study the concept of a partnership that exists in an unusual realm.

Maybe even more than that, I decided to keep my rings for another reason. Although perhaps unable to conceive of dating (horrible word!) in real life, I was not necessarily opposed to it in theory. But I decided early on not to remove my rings so as to appear “available” to random men. I knew deep inside that anyone that would get close to me would have to know, and understand, – and accept – the ongoing story of Jeff and me. Because clearly, our story is not over. Anyone that would be scared away or choose not to get to know me because of these wedding rings would just never be the one to “take it to the next level”, whatever that level was to be. So the rings stayed.

But while I was in San Diego at Camp Widow- life changing event in so many ways!- in the hotel room one lazy morning, I noticed something caught in the tines holding the small gemstone, so I took my rings off to clean them. As I pulled it from my finger, my gold wedding band fell to the floor and rolled under the bed, and for a minute I could not find it. Stuff of nightmares to come! I thought, as I crawled under the bed to retrieve it from a far dark corner.

My finger looked positively naked, with an indentation caused by two decades of wear. But I decided to keep the rings off, for a day, to see how it felt. It was awful. It felt horribly naked, too, and gave me constant small leaps in the pit of my stomach when I would realize the rings weren’t where they belonged. It was really uncomfortable, but I kept them off. Unsure exactly why. I missed, and still miss, the tiny tapping along to music, twirling the metal while thinking, rubbing the underside with my thumb. But I persevered. For days and weeks. Studied the discomfort, accepted it. Abided in it, one might say.

Now I am not saying there is cause and effect at work here.

But one month to the very day after taking off the rings, deciding to leave them off, I got kissed. And I kissed back. So sweet. And then we did it again. And we are still kissing. Even though he is far away. (I guess I am used to that.)

I am not saying my old story is over, not saying this new story is forever, not saying this could happen to you. Clearly, there are lots of kinds of love in this world. If I have learned anything from losing Jeff, I have learned that. I want to be open to all of them.

But I do think that sometimes you have to make room in your life for what is to come next. Even if it means living with an empty place first.

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Responses

  1. I still wear my wedding ring. Only the gold band, not the diamond.
    It will be 2 years on oct.20th since my hubby died. I left his ring on him as he always wore it.
    I do plan on taking it off some day but just am not ready yet.

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  2. Thank you for a beautiful article. My husband died last June…I am wearing my wedding rings and still have a Facebook profile as married. Reading of others experiences is helping so much…to know that as painful and truly heart wrenching as it is…the truth is that he is not here and that moving forward and accepting this is not going to diminish him or our love or lives together. Still working on this.

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  3. I lost my husband in March I still wear my rings and I have his on my index finger..he may be gone but not forgot ever!!

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  4. Good discussion.

    I wore my rings defiantly and as a sign I was unavailable for 13 months. I felt protected. Then I read “Getting To The Other Side of Grief” (R. DeVries and S. Smeegne) given to me by my sister whose friend had given it to her with the comment, “your sister has to read this book”. I was not happy to read it, I cried through most of it, but this book brought me to a different place which has helped me start again.
    I met a widower whose wife had died after a 22 yr struggle with cancer, my husband had a 33 yr struggle with cancer. We have now been married almost 2 years and have brought our two lives together. We talk and yes; still cry when we have a special anniversary or thought about our deceased spouses. There are 4 of us in this relationship, it could not work any other way. The sadness over our loss with always be there and we understand that for each other.
    We wanted to something special with our rings, we had 7 of them with 5 diamonds. We melted them together and designed new rings with 4 lines around the circumference signifying our 4 lives. The inner 2 lines signify the two who have passed, the top of these two lines have a diamond interrupting their circle of life and the diamond signifies they are perfected forever in heaven. I am so comforted to know that the gold around my finger is some of the same gold my husband wore around his finger for 28 years. Instead of putting the rings away and coming upon them occasionally and feeling sadness I have them with me day and night and they bring me such comfort.
    Sorry this is so long but I wanted to share my story in case someone else can take comfort from it. God bless all the widows, it’s a hard, hard place to be and I wish for all of you that you will find joy and happiness and that a new partner will be part of that new journey.

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    • This post made me think,about my life as a widow and where I am at this moment. Thank you for sharing such an honest and heartfelt story. And Margie,loved your double ring solution, very cool!!

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      • Beautiful. I am only 3 months into be a widow. I am faithful to my rings although some mornings I run late and forget to put them back on after my morning rituals. It’s a weird feeling. It’s all a weird feeling.

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  5. This weekend will be 6 years for me and I have not worn my rings for some time now. I still have them and I am not sure what to do with them. I have moved on and am in another relationship but somehow feel wrong keeping them and wrong selling them. Thoughts?

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  6. Just sit with them for awhile. You’ll find the right answer.

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