The first time I took my ring off.
I was traveling to a writer’s conference a few months after my husband died. He had purchased the tickets for me months before he passed, his way of blessing me in the calling and ministry I’d been given.
After much debate, I brought my mom and my children with me for extra comfort and we decided to go. The Lord met me there and blessed my grief courage. The bonfire during the last session was the first time I remember articulating how the veil between heaven and earth grew strangely thin. Like Dan was somehow much closer than I ever imagined even though he was on the other side of heaven.
The night before I flew back home to the crumbled mountains of Colorado, I sat on the floor in the North Carolina hotel room and played with my wedding ring.
“Til death do us part” is the one part of the wedding ceremony that I didn’t ever like and I also never imagined that part would really matter.
I found myself suddenly single when almost all my adult life was married. I was also in a wreck trying to understand that I’m now a single mom.
I spun the wedding band around my finger, and for the first time I decided it might be ok to see what it felt like with it off for a moment. I’m the kind who never takes her ring off. Not to sleep, not to clean, not to swim, not to knead dough. My ring became part of me. Just like my husband.
Holding the ring, I examined it through blurry, hot, and fiery tears. For me, it was a very slow realization that…
I’m actually single now.
Becoming a widow is like whiplash of identity; the pain sits there in your body for years after the incident.
I began thinking of the next day, how I’d be on an airplane with strangers and other singles and I totally panicked at the thought. So I quickly put the ring back on, only it wouldn’t budge past my knuckle. Due to travel swelling, enjoying actual real life southern cooking comfort foods, and visiting a lower elevation, my fingers had swelled up. The ring would not go back on. I panicked more now thinking of what it might be like to walk through the airport and chit chat with strangers without my ring. It was like a shield of protection that said, “She’s taken” and now the shield was out of commission.
Becoming a widow is like whiplash of identity.
I remember tears falling even hotter and heavier and desperate prayers.
Eventually, the ring went back on my finger and I made it through security to get home.
I made it through securely, to get home. That’s all we ever want, isn’t it. To get Home safely. Home is where my beloved is, but home was empty with no one there to welcome our return.
Everyone does it differently
Some widow(er)s plan when they’ll take their ring off. They know the date and prepare and take it off then. And then they actually do.
Other widow(er)s never take it off.
Other widow(er)s take the ring off and put it back on, according to their emotions and circumstances. I was in this category.
I would take it off for a few days and put it back on for months. I’d go months without it and then put it on for a few months. If I knew contractors were coming to my home to repair all the broken things, I would wear my ring then too. Like a shield. It gave the illusion that I had “back-up”.
Before visiting in-laws, I’d make sure to wear my ring. I just didn’t want them to them I’d moved on or hurt them in anyway. It all felt personal to everyone so I just wore it to respect them and avoid stirring up any additional grievances or emotions. Whether the possibility of additional pain was real or just in my imagination, this was one way I tried to honor those around me who also were grieving the loss of my husband.
Suddenly, our choice of jewelry matters to those around us when we’re widowed. Family members care, in-laws care, our children care. Wearing your wedding ring or not is a very personal decision that suddenly all kinds of other people have big emotional stakes in.
When a widow(er) takes their wedding ring off:
- This absolutely does not always mean that they are announcing to the world that they are ready to date.
- This could mean that widow(er) is just trying to process and understand the reality that their spouse is actually gone.
- A widow(er) who took off their ring could be communicating that they are indeed ready to date.
- A widow(er) usually feels naked, vulnerable, and insecure for quite a while after taking off their wedding band.
- Did I mention that a widow(er) without their ring is not necessarily communicating that they’re ready to date?
Please give widow(er)s so much grace.
The widow(er)s who decide to take their wedding band off are operating in huge amounts of grief courage and fragility. Be ever so kind to them.
Some widow(er)s never take off their wedding band and there’s a beauty in that too. It’s not your job to convince them it’s been long enough and it’s time to take it off. Be kind to them.
Please give the widow(er) in your life so much grace.
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A Prayer to Pray When You Can’t Find the Words
We ask you to give us grace. And give us an extra measure of grace to pour out to those around us, especially the broken-hearted. Give us wisdom and loving kindness in how to serve and bless the widow(er)s in our lives. Give us discernment to know when to speak and when to offer the ministry of only our presence. Thank you for drawing near to the brokenhearted. Draw near to us today and to those hurting around us.
In Jesus’ Mighty Name,
I highly recommend it!
For over fifty years of pastoral ministry, I have walked the road of grief with hundreds of individuals. I have read and shared many books on grief, but after reading When Mountains Crumble, I wished it had been available during all those years. I would have given it to all those who experienced the death of a loved one. I highly recommend it.
-Dr. Gary Chapman
Best-selling Author of The Five Love Languages
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Until next time…
May Peace Himself hold you & hold you together.
If you’re a widow(er), please tell me in the comments how and when you decided to take your wedding ring off or why you decided to keep it on. It’s so good to just talk about these things.