The question of if and when to take off a wedding ring as a widow isn’t straightforward. You probably know that. Like so many things in grief, there is no single answer of when, why, and how. If you take your ring off, when you take your ring off, and what you do with your ring are all deeply personal decisions. So though we can’t tell you the single “answer” to this question, we can walk you through some common considerations and share with you some of the suggestions we’ve received from hundreds of widows over the years. Let’s break it down question by question, starting with the one we get the most.
When is the right time for a widow to stop wearing their wedding ring?
There is no right time, period. We know widows who took their rings off immediately after the death. We know widows who still wear their rings after thirty years, even after they remarried. As with many things in grief, we encourage you to drop any “shoulds” you might be feeling (self-imposed or from others). Instead focus on what feels right for you. There is no right or wrong answer.
How will I know it is the right time for me?
Now, this is tricky – we said focus on what feels right for you. And now I am going to follow that up by saying that often no time feels exactly right. Wearing your ring is an important symbolic connection to your partner – it rarely feels exactly ‘right’ or easy to stop wearing it. So that’s the bad news. The good news is, if you take it off and then later decide it doesn’t feel right and you want to start wearing it again, you can! There is no rule that says it’s a permanent decision.
As for assessing whether it feels right to you, it’s important to examine if you’re worrying about things like other people’s perceptions of your decision. Are you keeping it on because you think other people might feel it is too soon to take it off? Are you taking it off even though you’d like to wear it longer because it feels like the ‘socially acceptable’ window of time to wear it has passed. Remember, the only thing that matters is how it feels to you. I know it can be hard not to worry about what other’s will think, but those who care about you will want you to make the best decision for yourself – even if they don’t get it.
How should I take it off?
So, the logistics of removing a ring are pretty straightforward. What we mean by “how” is should you just quietly, casually do it, or should you do it in some sort of meaningful or symbolic way. As you might imagine, there is no right answer for this either. We’ve heard more variations of ‘how’ than we could ever list here or count — “I spontaneously decided to put my rings in his casket with him to be buried”, “I just took them off one day to work in the garden and decided not to put them back on”, “I threw them across the room in anger and never put them back on”, “I planned a ceremony on a special day and took them off to keep in a special keepsake box”, and on and on.
If I leave it on, what should I do with it?
Leave it on exactly in the exact way that it has always been on.
This one is pretty straightforward. Keep your same ring (or rings) on your same hand, as it has always been.
Move it to your right hand.
This is pretty common. Some widows move the ring to their right hand indefinitely. Others move it to their right hand as a transition and then ultimately take it off entirely.
Wear it as a necklace.
This is another popular option. You can put it on a chain, or there are necklaces designed spefically for wearing a ring as a necklace. Click on any of the rings below to be taken to the etsy shop that sells them. A google search for ‘ring holder necklace’ will bring you plento of other options
Have it turned in to another piece of jewelry.
Another popular option is to have your ring made into something else – we’ve heard of everything from earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and even having your ring turned into a new, different ring. You can do this with just your ring, or if you have your partner’s ring some people choose to take the rings together and have them turned into something else. You can check etsy and pinterest for ideas, or we’ve linked to the gallery of a jewelry designed from rights (center image below) that might help in imagining possibilities.
If I take it off, what should I do with it?
There is no pressure to do something in particular with a ring if you decide to stop wearing it. There is nothing wrong with it living in the jewelry box alongside all your other jewelry, or sitting in the ring dish by your sink if that is what feels right to you.
Bury it with your spouse.
Some people find this a meaningful symbolic gesture – keeping the rings together. Unfortunately, if you choose to do this you have to have the presence of mind to think of it early on! If you didn’t consider this option before the burial but still like the idea of your ring being with your loved one, you can consider having it set into their headstone. Though I have read of several people doing this, I can’t find any details online so you would probably need to speak with the company creating the headstone to expore your options.
Keep it in a keepsake box.
Some people take their ring and their partner’s ring and store them in a nice keepsake box. This could be a box you have especially made, to be meaningful to you. Alternatively, it could just be a box that you like. As always, no rules! Etsy has many makers who engrave ring boxes of all shapes, sizes, and designs (often designed to hold rings for a wedding ceremony) that work well for something like this.
Pass it on
Some people decide to pass their ring (or rings) along to children, neices, nephews, or other friends or family. If you no longer wish to wear your ring and it doesn’t feel important to you that you keep it, this can be a nice gesture for others in the family who are deeply connected with you and your partner.
Rings aren’t sentimental to everyone and that is absolutely okay! You may decide to sell your ring and there is nothing wrong with that. You know that your connection to your partner lives on in you, not your ring.
Have other ideas? Please share them in the comments down below!
We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.