The summer months bring many celebrations, mostly weddings and graduations, and this summer I have been to both.
Each is a joyous event where the participants are beginning new futures either as man and wife or hopefully as a careerperson. But today, weddings are on my mind. Specifically, the rings and vows you exchange when you get married.
Nothing so publicly represents your marriage to others as wearing a wedding ring. Whether it's a diamond or a simple gold band, a ring on your left hand symbolizes the emotional commitment you made to another person. You are telling everyone that your heart and your life belong to someone else.
So what happens to your wedding rings when your spouse/partner dies? Should you continue to wear your wedding rings? Or do you take them off?
This is a HUGE issue for widows and widowers. Technically, you aren't married anymore when your spouse dies but of course you still feel married. I know lots of widows who continue to wear their wedding rings and would never think of taking them off. And that's okay. It's a personal decision and you have to listen to your heart and do what you think is best for you.
In my case, I wore my wedding rings for about two years after my husband's death. I didn't plan it that way. It just evolved. The first year was a year of survival so I really didn't think about my rings. During the second year, I started playing around with taking my rings off but for some reason it didn't feel right.
One day, I remember looking down at my hand and staring at those rings and thinking, "I'm not married anymore. My husband is no longer living. I don't have a husband." I slid took them off my finger because I knew it was time to say good-bye to that part of my life. My finger looked so bare and vulnerable. As I put them away in a special box, I thought back to our beautiful winter wedding and smiled.
I didn't discuss any of this with my son. With all that was going on in his life at the time, I honestly never thought he would notice my hands and whether I was wearing rings or not. But I was wrong. One day I was turning a light on and he looked at my hand. "Mom, where are your rings?" he asked me. There was a slight note of worry in his voice and I think at first he thought that I might have lost them.
"I took them off," I said quietly. "Daddy's been dead for two years. I'm not married anymore and it doesn't feel right to be wearing my wedding rings when I don't have a husband."
"But I want you to put them back on," he said.
"Why?," I said. "I don't get it. Why do you care if I have my wedding rings on or not?"
He hesitated. "Because I think they protect you," he said. "Please put them back on."
I hugged him and then explained to him that it was going to be okay and that this was the right thing to do. He kept looking at me like I was making a big mistake but I said he had to trust me. It was hard at first but now things are turning out to be okay and I've never regretted taking my rings off.
But that's my decision. It doesn't mean it's the one for you. You need to do what is comfortable for you.
If you're not ready to take your wedding rings off, then you could move your rings to your right hand, you could wear your rings on a chain around your neck or you could have the rings made into other pieces of jewelry for yourself or your children.
Or you could just keep wearing your wedding rings for as long as you wish.
There is no right or wrong answer to this question.
Just as everyone finds their own way to mourn the loss of their loved one, so it is also true for wearing your wedding rings.