As 2016 came to a close, I mentally made a checklist of all the things I had to accomplish before the clock struck midnight. The house was immaculate – except for the camping tent pitched in the corner of my living room, a Christmas present for my kiddo who refused to have it placed in her room. All the laundry was washed – the dryer is still humming in the background as I type but at least there isn’t a dirty article of clothing in the house.
I switched off from my usual crime-TV show to catch the countdown on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest. It’s an annual tradition to watch the ball drop in Times Square.
The clock struck midnight and I reflected on 2016 and said a prayer for 2017. It was then that it caught my eye: my wedding ring.
It’s been 4 years and 10 months since the unexpected death of my husband. Five years and 10 months since we stood surrounded by friends and family as he placed the rings on my finger. We never saw death lurking around the corner, barely giving us a year as husband and wife.
For the past few months I’d been telling myself that the year would not end with the rings on my finger. It was time to remove them. I even asked other widows what they did with theirs. I heard everything from storing them in a jewelry box to melting the rings down to create a brand new piece.
As the days flew by, I kept thinking I was ready and it wouldn’t be a major emotional trigger. Heck, I’d started going out with someone while wearing my wedding ring so it wasn’t as if I hadn’t made peace with my hubby’s death.
Honestly, the ring on my finger served many purposes. I felt connected to my spouse in some way by continuing to wear it. Other days, it warded off the creepy guy who approached me to ask for my number. I flashed it and proudly announced I was happily married.
Other days, the ring was a burden. I would often see friends and family slowly gaze at my finger, perhaps wondering when I was going to remove it. That was always awkward. Then, there were times when people would look at it and ask how long I’d been married. That was always painful. But then there were times when I found myself locking eyes with a handsome stranger then seeing him look at my ring, smile politely and walk away. That was always disappointing.
I was determined to remove my rings before the clock struck midnight and ushered in 2017. It just seemed like a perfect time to make changes.
I figured I’d wear both our rings around my neck and Cozumel, my port of call on my December vacation, would be the perfect spot to snag a necklace.
I went into store after store and reached the same conclusion: nothing worked. The selections were too long, too short, too thin, too thick, too fancy, too plain…
I should have known then that there was nothing wrong with the necklaces. It was me. I didn’t want to find one that worked. I wasn’t ready. I kept telling myself otherwise though.
At 10:45 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, I thought that since I didn’t have a necklace, I’d simply move the rings to my right hand. It’s now 1:02 a.m. on Sunday, January 1 and the rings remain just where they were placed by my husband.
Yes, I failed to meet my deadline but so what? There is no timetable for grief. I will not for a second feel bad about not taking off my rings to meet some arbitrary deadline I gave myself. Part of healing is listening to yourself. You have to know what you’re mentally capable of handling.
Not quite ready to pack away your spouse’s clothing in the closet? That’s fine. Take your time. You’ll know when you’re emotionally okay to do so. Dreading going through his tools in the shed? No biggie. There’s no widowed guideline for this sort of thing. Many times we just have to wing it and do what works for us.
Try to remember not to compare your journey. Simone may have taken off her ring 3 months post-loss and Kathy might have packed away her husband’s clothing within six months of his death but that doesn’t have to be your timeframe. Move at your own pace and don’t allow anyone to rush you into decisions, yourself included.
I may decide to take off my ring when I wake up for church in a few hours or I may take them on the 5th anniversary of his death…I don’t know. I do know that it will happen when I’m 100% at peace with my decision.
What have you been putting off? Let us know by chiming in below.