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A Widow’s Wedding Ring: What to Do?

by Legacy Staff

Some widows turn their ring into a necklace, but it’s not quite that simple.

Q.  I’ve noticed that some widows wear their wedding ring on a chain around the neck.  How common is that?  I’m debating what to do with mine.  It’s now nine months since my husband died.

A. To my knowledge, there are no statistics on how many of us do or don’t continue to wear our rings in some fashion. However, there are many options. Some widows move the ring to the right hand. Others ask a jeweler to redesign the ring into a pendant or pin. Recently widowed Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, wears her ring on the chain you mention. Others prefer two wedding bands on a chain–their own plus their late spouse’s.


This is another one of those cases where there is no “right thing to do” because we’re all different, and several issues are involved.  A wedding ring on your left hand is a statement of status. It tells the world, “I’m married.” Lack of a ring suggests, “I may be available for a relationship.” Wearing the band on a chain, to my mind, communicates “I’m a widow,” yet leaves other questions open.     

One woman removed her ring within a month or so of her spouse’s death. She wanted to date immediately (some people do) and displayed her unadorned hand prominently at business or social events.  Others may consider ring removal a kind of betrayal of their mate. I personally wore my ring for close to a year.  I stopped when I felt ready to consider dating. Today the band lies in its original box in my dresser drawer. I have no interest in redesigning it.  It’s the only ring I’ve owned or wanted. I’m not ready to part with it, yet. 

Someone who has been widowed more than once may feel differently about her ring each time. “My first husband died when my children were young, and I took off my ring at the one-year mark. By then I was ready to meet someone,” recalls a friend of mine. Years later, when her second husband died, she consciously decided to wear her band permanently. She wasn’t willing to start a new relationship all over again.

Incidentally, the wedding ring tradition originated more than 4,800 years ago in ancient Egypt and signified eternal love, according to the American Gem Society. In those days, wedding rings were made of braided grasses, rushes and reeds—rather than gold or platinum with or without precious stones. (The ring also indicated ownership of the woman by her mate.)

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Florence Isaacs is the author of several books on etiquette, including My Deepest Sympathies: Meaningful Sentiments for Condolence Notes. She writes regularly for Legacy.com, answering questions about sympathy etiquette and offering advice and support for bereaved spouses and partners.



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