Do Widows Wear Wedding Rings?

Widows can do whatever they want. There is no specific etiquette as to whether a widow should wear her ring or stop wearing it or when it is appropriate to do so.

I’ve read that traditionally widows would put their wedding rings in the casket with their husband. Not sure what the tradition is for cremation but that was not something I considered.

When Mike and I decided to get married, after living together in California for a year, I went home to New York, took my grandmother’s ring that was bequeathed to me out of the safety deposit box and declared ourselves engaged. We had of course discussed this before I went home for the visit. During the week in New York, my mom and I were busy booking a venue, trying on and then ordering a wedding gown, choosing bridesmaid dresses, selecting flowers and inquiring about live music to play at the reception.

Mike’s parents were worried why I had come home without him. He had just started a new job and couldn’t get the days off, so I invited them over for dinner at my parents’ house and announced our plans. They were thrilled. And even a bit impressed at the beauty of the sparkly engagement ring on my finger.

Once I returned to San Diego, I brought my grandmother’s delicate and large diamond ring to a local jeweler.  It was uncanny how he admired the ring and said it was designed in New York City around 1920 based on the design of the diamond called the  “Old Mine Cut”. The proportions of old mine cut diamonds vary greatly from modern cut diamonds. Old mine cut diamonds have a high crown and larger facets than modern cut diamonds.

These bulkier proportions had a purpose – they were chosen so that the diamonds would sparkle under candlelight. Because old mine cut diamonds were cut by eye and hand, each diamond carries a unique charm – they often have chunky, uneven facets and an asymmetrical shape. Every single diamond is unique. Diamonds are no longer cut in the old mine fashion, making them very rare.

After appraising the ring, the jeweler designed a ring to match as a wedding band. This was in the late 1980’s when everyone was changing old platinum rings into new designs with yellow gold. I admired those flashy rings with the diamonds mounted high above the surface; easy to use as a weapon in a dark, mall parking garage I imagined.

Resisting the urge and with a lack of additional funds, I kept the ring as is.  I am so glad that I did not change the setting because it is so beautiful the way it is.

But, as with many of the things from my marriage, I have acknowledged that some things are no longer true.  Like on Facebook it says I am married.  I feel like I am married, but I guess I should really change that to widowed.  That just seems too real. I’m not ready to let the world know I am a widow.

Most of Mike’s clothes are now gone from his closet, although I still have a few items that I think my sons may want or I just keep them around because they remind me of him and maybe a special time.  I have expanded my summer wardrobe into his closet.  

Recently I was going through some piles of papers and came across his expired license and photo I.D. card from a hotel we worked in together.  I didn’t get rid of them, yet.  Not sure why – I just didn’t want to. To read about more about my attempts at clearing out the house click here: Finding Joy in the act of getting rid of clutter.

Some widows are ready when their husband passes, and clean out the houses right away. They even remove the ring and get on with their life.

That is not the way I dealt with his passing.  Since his death was unexpected, I was in the denial zone for a while. I left everything as is.  In fact, I often imagined that this was all a big mistake and he would be back. He died in August and left his flip-flops outside the side door.  I left them outside all winter in case he came home looking for them.

Slowly, I made progress in moving on or moving forward and parting with some things that I really don’t need.  His toiletries and medicines took a while, but I realized that I didn’t want or need them. One morning, when I was tired of the clutter, I cleared out the bathroom shelves.  He didn’t collect much stuff, but I got rid of some of his books and papers.

After two years I felt ready to meet someone and start dating but was reluctant to remove my ring. It was my ring and I felt sure it was a part of me. I could go on a date with a diamond ring on my left hand, right?

Signing up for an online dating site was a big step in moving forward. I thought maybe I would just look. I was curious and I didn’t have to go on a date if I didn’t want to.

After texting a few different people, I arranged a date with a nice-looking guy who lived nearby. Excited and nervous, I came home from work, showered and put on a dress I thought looked quite charming. I considered taking off my ring. I tried. I wiggled the ring around. I pulled it up toward my knuckle. It was stuck. I could not take that ring off my finger. Oh well.

I went on the date. We had a nice time. Dinner was good and I smiled and enjoyed myself. He did ask about my husband at one point but I had practiced what I would share. Telling all the sad and disturbing details of how my husband died on a first date would not go over well so I tried my best to answer the important questions and then get back to focusing on this new person I was talking to.

He asked me out for a second date. And then again for a third. We began to spend a lot of time together. At one point I may have mentioned to him that my ring was stuck and would be there forever.

If I was not dating I may have kept that ring on my finger for the rest of my life. My grandmother did. She wore it with her second husband after her first husband died and then continued to wear it when she became a widow for the second time. I recall as she aged, her body shrunk and and so did her fingers. In the fashion of frugality from the early 1900s, she tied string to the ring to keep it from falling off. Some people wear their rings forever, and why not?

One afternoon when my new boyfriend and I had been dating for about one year, I showed him that my finger was turning blue. My grandmother’s ring was very thin, and the wedding band attached to that ring was now split. The two soldered rings were so tight I could no longer remove the set. It seemed the only way to remove the ring was to cut it off.

The blue finger and new boyfriend (who wanted to be more than that) convinced me it was time to remove the ring. It is always a traumatic decision for a widow to remove her ring. It’s a visual that signifies that the marriage is over. We did say “until death do us part” and one of us died.

Still, it can bring back feelings you may have buried and a part of you may feel guilty or sad. All those feelings are appropriate and part of the moving forward momentum already started.

Using some type of wire cutters, Pete carefully angled them so as not to cut my hand. In just seconds the procedure was over and my swollen blue finger began to return to a matching skin tone with the rest of my hand, but the indent where the ring had been was still pronounced.

I looked at the pieces of the rings. Once again, I considered changing the setting and making it a “cocktail” ring. But, since it is about 100 years old and a family heirloom, I chose to simply resize the diamond ring and wear it on my right hand. It will always remind me of my first marriage and my grandmother.

The wedding band that Mike and I had made is special to me. It represents our marriage. I’d like to use my wedding band and his wedding band and design a piece of jewelry to keep him close to my heart. When I asked a jeweler if he could turn the rings into a new piece he offered to melt them down and purchase the gold, but that just didn’t seem right.

I have seen examples of widows designing a necklace using the two rings. Turning the pieces into a heart or a cross would be lovely. Some people use the rings to create a widow ring so the options are endless.

Do widows wear wedding rings? Yes they do.  

Some will never take them off.  Some will move them to the right hand.  Some will even wear their husband’s band on a thumb or middle finger or on a chain. It is definitely a personal decision and not one any one else should make for you.  When or if you are ready, you will take it off.  Maybe you’ll sometimes put it back on again.

It took me almost 3 years to move my ring to the other hand.  I may never have moved it off my left hand, but the fact that it was too tight and broken helped me make the decision. Sometime the universe helps us to move forward.

I also made the decision to move my ring to the other side because I met a NL (new love) and am once again part of a committed relationship. When I started dating after three years, I did not remove my ring. Some men might be offended or put off by this. I left it on because it is pretty and it represents who I am. Telling a date that I had been married and that my husband died was sure to come up in conversation. It’s different from wearing a wedding ring and still being married.

 I loved being married.  Our relationship of course had its ups and downs but overall we had trust and love and continued to enjoy each other.  The shock of him being gone is going away and I am learning to live in the life I have right now.  

I first wrote this post only three years after Mike had died. It was such a popular one. Many women wanted to know if they should keep wearing their wedding rings or if there were rules about removing them. Maybe we just want to know there are other people like us out there wrestling with these decisions.

 Wearing a wedding band on your ring finger on your left hand signifies you are married. Technically a widow is no longer married after her partner has passed, nullifying the marriage by law.

Each widow or widower will make that decision and there is not right or wrong answer. If seeing the ring on your finger brings you comfort, there is no reason to remove it. If it brings back memories of his death and you feel more comfortable not wearing it that is fine too. And I think it is fine to change your mind as well.

My plan is to pass on my grandmother’s ring, a family heirloom, to my children. Oh, the stories that ring could tell! Maybe that will be my next book!

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74 Responses

  1. I so feel your dilemma! I have 2 wedding bands. Married the same man 3 times! I may never remove them.

  2. We do things, say things, plan things when we are ready, and when we are ready we will know it, all who love us will want us to live, to love , to be happy.

    1. So true. Things that you thought would never be something you want in the first 6 months, changes after 2 years and some things don’t. Great to have support from loved ones.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts. I had to take my wedding ring off almost 4 months after my husband died suddenly bc it was making me so sad to see it. Plus the reality was, I was no longer married. I bought another ring in its place as a commitment between me and God bc I’m not ready to announce I’m single to strangers. One day at a time… one experience at a time.

    1. Christine, heartfelt when reading comments from the friend widows and I came across yours about the wedding ring. I learnt something new….I was a widow when 44. It is not that easy but with God I have come that long way under his caring and loving hands. I have his favour!!….Nothing is impossible with our good Lord!

    2. My husband died on Thanksgiving day 2018. I took my ring off this month for the same reasons. My daughter was upset with me but it was hard to work forward when I could see and touch my ring all day knowing he was never coming back and I was no longer married. I am thinking of having the rings melted down together and creating a new ring, still part of of us but different.

      1. It is sad to see the ring and be reminded of your love and commitment for all those years. You want to still love your husband and honor your relationship, but it doesn’t feel right, after a while. But when you are ready, doing something new or different with the rings can be comforting.

    3. I don’t intend to remove my wedding rings. And since he has a lot bigger finger than mine, I am ordering a necklace to wear his ring. Before he went to hospital, we have already discussed moving and selling the house. So I guess packing for me is easier. I am packing all of his stuffs as if he is still physically here with me and moving with me. It’s been 3 weeks. I’m 40 now but I’ve decided to just live solo and wait til I am reunited with him again when my time comes. I am remaining married to him, and he is my spirit husband protecting me.

      1. Your necklace idea sounds lovely. Good luck with your new home Thank you for commenting.

      2. I have only been widowed 1 month, I still wear my wedding rings and always will. We were married 41 years. I will always be married to him, the love and marriage we shared can’t be flushed down the toilet. He had cancer before we knew it he was gone, and I know one day I will be with him in heaven, my faith and family and church family are strong

      3. I’m so sorry for your loss. 41 years is wonderful and your rings are right where they should be.

  4. All I can say is there is not one appropriate way to grieve. However you do it is EXACTLY right for you💕💕

  5. I wouldn’t change my f/b profile just yet – maybe find a way to make it secret, so you don’t have to reveal anything to anyone.

    as to the ring, it’s your decision – I have my old wedding ring, somewhere – but I never wear it – (I’m not a widow, though – separated quite a few decades) I haven’t worn any rings for years…just not my style.

    1. It’s amazing how many people feel strongly about wearing them after their husband dies. I think I will probably resize it and wear it on my right hand because it is so pretty and a family heirloom. thanks for your comment!

  6. I understand your dilemma. When my son died I got rid of most of his stuff after about 6 months. So many memories. But I choose to hold on to some of the photos that will be with me forever. Thanks for this.

    1. I’m so sorry for your loss. I also saved many photos. I used to look at them every day but after a while I live more in the present, just keep a couple around the house.

  7. This must be such a hard decision to make! My heart aches for what you have gone through and are still going through.

    1. Thank you so much. For me it has been a tough thing to do, take it off. I think I’ll have it resized and wear on my right hand. Thanks for your comment.

  8. I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine losing my fiancé (who’s name is Mike) and your blog has opened my eyes. Hopefully this means I can be empathetic with my friend who recently lost her husband. What’s something that someone did for you that really helped you? We are not best friends but I’d like to help her through this time.

    Also, I say you don’t have to change your Facebook status. If you’re married in your heart xx

    1. Thank you for reading. So many people did nice things for me after my husband died. People brought over food, or sent cards with gift cards to restaurants in them with a note. That was really nice. I did not like to talk on the phone, so people who just stopped by were much easier for me to deal with than making plans. Just show up is the best advice. Best wishes on your wedding!

  9. My husband passed 4 months ago do to cancer. He is the love of my life. I still wear my ring, I still have my Facebook status as married. I still have his Facebook activated. I don’t think I’m in denial. I just haven’t felt the need to make those changes.

    1. I agree. I have not wanted to change those things either. After 30 months it is something I think about and I had to take the ring off. Planning to get it resized though. Thanks for reading

    2. my husband died 6 months ago from Cancer.. He is still my husband and we had agreed long ago that we would love each other forever. I still wear my rings and cannot imagine not wearing them. Many friends who are widowed that are around my age, have taken off their rings, but I choose to keep mine on my left ring finger where My loving husband and best friend put them 40 1/2 years ago. I am not in denial either, but just will never stop loving Tim.

    1. That’s nice that he wears both and you are OK with that. I may want to resize mine and just wear it on the other hand since it’s also a family heirloom. Thanks for reading and your comment!

  10. I’ve just read your lovely post on a day when I’ve been thinking about my husband, who I lost 4 years ago, and wondering when would be the right time to stop wearing my wedding ring. The trouble is, as soon as I have that thought I almost panic – it’s such a big step (I don’t really know why) and I just can’t do it so, after reading this, I swapped my wedding and engagement ring to my right hand. I don’t know if they’ll stay there – I feel so unbalanced, for want of a better word, but, thanks to you and your post, I’ve tried. Thank you x

    1. Wow. Thanks for sharing. I had mine resized and wear it on my right hand now too. It takes a while but now I’m used to it. Sending you a hug.

  11. I relate so much. My husband passed away in January and I’m only 47. This wasn’t suppose to be this way. I still have a married status on Facebook and still feel married, too. I refer to him as “my husband” when telling stories, as if he is still alive. Three weeks before he passed away I told him how sorry I was that I felt like I had taken him for granted and that he would always be there. He told me it was ok and he wasn’t going anywhere. But he did. I just recently took my wedding ring off and only because I was missing two prongs and I was afraid of losing my diamond. I keep trying to feel it on my finger and it feels so naked and strange. My husband was a jeweler and I kept telling him I needed new prongs and re-tipping and he wasn’t able to get to it because he was battling cancer. I feel like I can’t have anyone repair it or change it because he designed it and always took care of it for me. I’m still in that denial phase and hate to change or get rid of anything. It helps to know I’m not alone. Read your post about holidays and 4th of July today. I relate to that, too. Miss him so much.

    1. Thanks for reading. It sounds like your ring is really special. I hope you can get it fixed and continue to wear it as long as you like! Hugs.

  12. I took my ring off a few weeks later but I’m not a ring person – it was a very narrow band. I still have my husband’s ring. My son is getting married and may use it as his ring. I haven’t heard for sure if he will but I love that idea.

    I just changed my Facebook status from friends to private but I couldn’t change it from married to widowed. That was a good option for me.

    1. That is a nice idea to have your son use it. I may do that but I have 2 sons. Tricky. I just never stated married so I didn’t state widowed either.

  13. Loved reading this. Neither my husband or I wore our wedding bands in recent years (size and work issues). He passed away in September, expectedly (as if you can ever expect it), from cancer. Only 55. In November I took both bands to a jeweler. Had his sliced in half and put on both sides of mine. He will be wrapped around me forever. Now I have a beautiful wide band that I wear on my left hand for now, but will look great on my right hand when I’m ready.

  14. Thanks for sharing. After 21 years I still wear my rings most days. I wore them for 41 years until that dreadful day and my finger looks bare without them.
    And thanks for subscribing to my blog. BTW I absolutely hate the word ’widow’.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I did hate the word too, but the more I used it, the more it didn’t really upset me anymore.

  15. I still wear my wedding and engagement rings from time to time. Why not? They are beautiful! I especially like to wear them when I am out in the evenings (which is infrequent – I’m pretty much a homebody). I think of them as protection from unwanted advances. Of course, I realize that only the decent men will take heed of the rings on my finger but it’s my dream world, and I like living in it, so there! 😉

  16. My husband died a little over a month ago. He had recently updated my engagement ring by placing the main diamond in a band of smaller surrounding diamonds. I had waited years for this perfect ring. I still can’t imagine taking it off. I will eventually move it to my right hand and someday give it to my daughter when she gets engaged. I have his ring around my neck. I hold it so often throughout the day.

    1. Courtney I am so sorry for your recent loss. Your ring sounds beautiful and I agree you should wear it. Mine is on my right hand everyday and I’m happy it is still there. I still haven’t figured out what to do with his ring. I want to design a necklace, but I can see how wearing the ring on a necklace can bring such comfort too.

  17. I am a relatively new widow but I have chosen not to wear my rings. When I got engaged and married they made me feel like a queen, but now without my husband they just brought me more pain. I seem to be in the minority here.

    1. I totally understand. If it brings pain it is not a good idea to keep
      It with you. So sorry for your loss.

  18. My fiancé just passed away on the way to our wedding, I spent days where he died on his motorcycle, on a dangerous highway, looking desperately for our wedding bands. When I got back to our apartment I was unpacking his bag with my best friend/maid of honor and at the very bottom of the bag I found a little black box, expecting to see one of our wedding bands, I opened it to find two diamond encrusted bands surrounding my engagement ring… only this one has a HUGE diamond on it and I’m already wearing my engagement ring! Turns out he had one last surprise for me at the altar, he wanted to make me cry in front of everyone LOL. I was still very sad because I never recovered his band but now a month later I just got a call from his mom, my new mom, telling me the funeral home gave her a leather vest that he was wearing, and inside a pocket was a broken black box, with a ring in it.

    Now what to do with all these pieces of him? And I do feel like everything is a little tiny piece of him. To get rid of things is so hard, I feel like I’m throwing him out and erasing him from my life. His smell is leaving our apartment, I can hardly remember his voice anymore.

    Part of me wants to give his daughter my first engagement ring, the one he gave me the day he told me he had finally decided he could get married again, because he wanted to marry me, and we put so much work into our relationship, that ring to me symbolizes all the things we went through to get where we were. So i wear that ring, with another ring he gave me with my birthstone on it. Looking and feeling cluttered

    Then there’s his wedding band, I can’t wait to have it, to hold it, it was the last thing on his list to pick up the day he died, riding to his bride. Part of me wants to wear it with my wedding rings and big engagement ring but again soooo cluttered, hardly any room left on that knuckle. Or do I give it to his son?

    There’s a ring he always wore, a symbol of his sobriety and discipline. It’s a heavy gold ring with a large black onyx face, a triangle going through it, the AA logo. He designed it and had it made himself, he wore it everyday, yet another item that just seems to encapsulate who he was, of course we all want that, which is why I’m contemplating giving them my rings.

    This is a lot I know, don’t know what I’m doing, don’t know who I am, I’m sure you’ve been here. It’s still very fresh and I think I’m still in shock.

    Any advice is appreciated.

    1. Oh Kat, I am so sorry for the loss of your fiancé on your wedding day. I can totally understand why the rings are so important to you and what a sweet surprise that you were able to find them. I’ve seen some beautiful necklaces made from rings or even rings simply worn on a chain. Give it some time and don’t make any decisions yet. You need to focus on healing and grieving now. Take your time. One day at a time.

  19. Your words broke my heart especially with the bit about how you had to cut the wedding band to get it off your finger. It must have been and still must be so difficult to go through all of that. You are very brave for writing and sharing your story with the world.

    I cannot tell you that things will get better because I don’t know that. But I hope that when the time comes, you will be able to meet him once again and tell him all the stories about you and your boys. God bless you and your family.

    1. Thank you so much for your sweet comment. I do tell him about me and the boys on my morning walks. Thanks for reading. ❤️

  20. I lost my husband a month ago. I am 40 years old with 2 kids. He died of a heart attack in the front yard at age 41. I’m lost without him. How does anyone move on from this? Who will want a 40 year old with 2 kids? These are my crazy thoughts.

    1. I am so sorry for your loss. 40 is so young – take time for yourself. No thoughts are crazy. Being a widow is. Baby steps and one day at a time. 💕

  21. Thank you for this. So glad I came across it. I’ve been a widow for 3 months. I’m 54 and he died suddenly. Not sure if I will ever be able to move his things. Still having a difficult time believing it. Good luck. 🙏🏻 Thank you for sharing your heart.

    1. I am so sorry for your loss. It is difficult to change things – but you will know when it is time. Be gentle with yourself. Thanks for reading.

  22. Every time my husband went into the hospital whether if was for hernia repair, cyst removal that went septic, triple bypass, the first thing he wanted upon waking up was to have his wedding band back on his finger. Even if he was groggy and couldn’t tell you anything about the the day following surgery, he always remembered he wanted his ring. Just a plain gold band, but it meant so much to him. It was warped from nearly 32 years of being on his finger. The last time he went into the hospital, we found out he had terminal lung cancer and he lived only two weeks after that. I was holding his hand went he left this world. I took that ring that was so valuable to him because of the bond we had together, and had it turned into a beautiful ring to wear on my right hand. I can not imagine ever not wearing it. I grew out of my wedding rings years ago but my left hand still have my anniversary ring and my “today, yesterday, always” diamond ring.

    1. I love the idea of an anniversary ring. Never had one but I’m sure it’s beautiful. Thanks for your comment.

  23. My husband died recently. I cannot and will not take my rings off. I am still married to him in my heart. I’m in my 50’s and am too old to meet anyone else. I have his ring on a chain around my neck.

    1. I’m so sorry for your recent loss. I felt the same way for a long time. Take as much time as you need to grieve and maybe it never will come off. I don’t think you’re too old!! My mom remarried at 70, and I did at 55 after becoming widows. Anything is possible.

  24. It was so good to read your post,it helped me to understand this new “status” of widowhood a bit better… My husband passed away three years ago, I miss everything about him everyday, the way he’d look at me when he walked through the door😭all the little things about him, the way he used to hold my hand…oh my goodness. I read somewhere that grief should not be measured as sone days are fine, others a bit stormy! So it’s going to take a while for me to finally take off my ring and put it away🥀

    1. Yes – take as long as you need. I know how you feel about missing that look. Thanks for reading and keep taking baby steps.

  25. Nice to meet you Kristin, I visited your ‘about page’ and I am deeply sorry and I cannot imagine the exceptional difficulty and challenges in your life. You are an inspiration sharing how you found joy again in life. I visited some of your other blogs and I have subscribed to your site. There is a great deal of heart and wisdom in your writing. I look forward to reading more. 😊 Erica (I tried to comment on your About Page, and I was not sure if there was a comment section.)

    1. Hi Erica. What a lovely comment -thanks for reading my blog stories. I found yours the other day and look forward to reading more and keeping in touch.

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