When it’s Time to Take Off the Rings


“It’s been twenty-two months for me,” she said.

Death leaves a heartache quoteWe had just disembarked from our cruise ship and were waiting for the train excursion to board when I began talking to the woman beside me. She was petite, attractive and beautifully dressed. Her hair was ‘fixed’ as we say in the South and her makeup skillfully applied. Although we were boarding a train for the Alaskan mountains she was wearing her fine jewelry. I should have known she was a fellow Southerner. We like our jewelry and accessories!

Being lone travelers we struck up a conversation. When I mentioned that I was attending a writer’s conference she asked what I was writing.

“It’s a memoir about how to build a life you love, after losing the love of your life,” I answered. That’s when she told me how many months her husband had been gone. We rode the train together and talked easily about our husbands, about being widowed and about each of us taking the cruise alone. We also laughed and talked about the trip, our lives and most everything else. The conversation was easy.

She said that her husband had been widowed before they married and that he’d had a ‘ring removal ceremony’ to take off the rings after his first wife passed. She said that he’d always wanted to take an Alaskan cruise but hadn’t lived to enjoy it. So here she was, less than two years after he died, cruising to Alaska alone.

She was now ready to remove her wedding ring and replace it with a new ring she’d just purchased for herself. Because he gave her the ring and proposed at the bow of a cruise ship, she was planning to do it ‘tonight’ after dinner on the bow of the ship. She invited me to stand with her.

Of course I said, “Yes.”

I also clarified that she was not going to throw the jewel in the ocean like in the movie, Titanic. After a look at one of the most gorgeous wedding rings I’ve ever seen I told her, “If you throw that in the ocean, I’m diving in after it and I can’t even swim!”

For most widows and widowers, removing the rings is so much more than taking off a piece of jewelry. It’s not like a watch or pair of earrings. It symbols being ready to go out into the world with no visible sign that you were married. It’s a big step.

That night we dressed up for dinner and met before walking to the dining area together. We enjoyed the food and wine while chatting with others from the conferences we were each attending. After dessert we quietly slipped out and somberly walked to the bow of the ship. It was cool and clear. The water was calm. It was a perfect evening.

I stood nearby as she took out the new ring, looked down for a moment, as though having a mental conversation with her husband. She then slipped the wedding ring onto her right hand, replacing it with her new ring. It was a quietly emotional occasion and no words were needed between us. Our hearts knew. We stood for a moment to take in the quiet sound of the ship moving through the ocean and to enjoy the beauty of the moon reflecting on the water.

We went back into the ship to join the others and attend a show. A quiet, private moment to mark a significant life shift.

What about you? Have you taken your rings off yet? Did you do it quietly or did you observe the moment in some special way?

I’d love to hear your story. You can post here or send an email to Myra@MyraMcElhaney.com


5 Responses to “When it’s Time to Take Off the Rings”

  1. That’s beautiful. I’ve just passed 2 years. Mine is still on my finger. It’s something I question on a daily basis. I thought as time went by that the decision to take it off would get easier, but I actually think it is getting harder. I guess that maybe one day I’ll just know the time is right.

    • I think you’ll know when the time is right. After about a year a friend told me it was time. I set the 2nd anniversary of his death as the day I’d take off the rings. (I hadn’t planned a ceremony as the woman I met on the cruise.) A few weeks before the anniversary I just felt it was time. I just took them off. Later, for what would have been our 20th anniversary I had my rings and his ring made into a ‘right hand ring.’ Maybe looking for a fun ring to replace it will help but do it in your own time. Thanks for commenting.

  2. It’s been 4 months for me… Not taking it off anytime soon! Good to know there’s no pressure.

  3. survivormomma27 said

    We didn’t have rings. We exchanged diamond stud earrings. I wear both of them now. I went a few months without them, but guilt set in. It sucks!

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