Monday, January 6, 2014

Terrible Relief


Kelley's post got me thinking. My knee jerk reaction was: what's wrong with me that I parted with my wedding ring months after Dave died? What's wrong with me that I don't long to wear it? How did I let go of that ring? I measured the devotion I had by the way I dealt with my grief. Never helpful.

 Everyone grieves differently. For a moment I forget it long enough to just begin to do a little inner critic stuff and then I remind myself that we're all doing this the way it works for us. No right or wrong.

A few months in I couldn't bear to look at my ring. It made me helplessly furious and frustrated to see it on my finger. A lie, I thought. It was a lie. If someone saw the ring and asked me about my husband, I'd simply keel over and die. I couldn't bear to hear someone ask about him. I couldn't bear to tell that story more than I already had to. That ring was a sign of our love, yes, and of course my love continued, but it was also a sign of our marriage and to me, our marriage had ended. I knew my life had to move on. I didn't like it. I raged against it. But I knew it had to happen. The ring was just delaying the inevitable for me. It was like trying to resurrect a stage of my life I had to say goodbye to. It was hanging on to something that was being ripped from me. Letting go brought me terrible relief.

After three or four months, I took the ring off and felt nauseous. So I waited a few weeks and tried it again. One day I took it off and forgot it was off until the end of the day. I never wore it again. I'd never get rid of it, and one day I'm guessing I'll turn it into something else, or wear it again on my right hand, but for now it stays in storage. It still hurts a little to look at it, though not at ALL like it did in the beginning. It seemed to burn my skin with pain and loss when I wore it. When I looked at it.

From the beginning I had a really hard time with continuing the way I'd been traveling through life with Dave. It was easier to NOT have reminders of the life I had to part with. It was easier when my outside matched my reality. He was gone. Seeing his shoes in the hallway as if he wasn't gone forever was too much to withstand. Seeing my ring on my finger was too discordant. I had to escape it all. Or face it, I'm not sure which. Both.

Who was I kidding, I thought. We all know he's gone. I can't pretend he's not. I can't pretend he's coming home. If anything, that made my grief even worse. It made it more like a drawn-out form of torture.

Once I was in a new apartment with all new furniture and only my things around me (except for a few precious Dave items I couldn't part with) I felt less tortured. I felt my outside reality match my inner reality. Inside, I knew I had to learn to live without him and I knew I had to begin. Outside, I could no longer fool myself into thinking what happened hadn't happened. The ring just helped me fool myself.

It's odd how I can understand with every molecule in my body how horrible it would be for Kelley to lose her ring and at the very same time have parted with mine (with terribly bittersweet, gut-wrenching relief). It's weird how I can fully grasp how others have clung to their old life by staying in the house, keeping all the clothes, furniture, momentos and wearing their rings for years and years and yet I needed nearly the opposite to survive my loss.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not parting with my ring (or his) or his wallet, his watch or his ashes with ease. I'd very nearly go back into a burning building for them. But looking at them? They used to stab me right in my heart with an aching pain. They would rip me into shreds. I still only take them out once in a great while. The watch still ticks away. The wallet still smells the same. How can that be?

We go about this terrible trial so differently, just as we do everything differently. The similarity, I believe, is that we do what we have to to survive and we go largely on instinct. Our bodies and minds seem to know what it is we have to do.

God, I hope you find your ring, Kelley. I hope it's back on your finger, where it belongs and that you can rub your thumb against it once more. I hope I can look at my ring one day and smile big with the memories of the love it represented. I'm getting there.


  1. I have a strange relationship with my ring.

    I had only been married 15 months when my husband died. I was pregnant when he died and was forced to take it off due to swelling and couldn't get it back on for many months. Eventually I was able to return to wearing it. It came off my left hand when I found out a secret my husband was keeping which I had no knowledge of and I found very upsetting. Almost a year after I took it off I decided I wanted to wear it again, so I got it resized and now I wear it permanently on my right hand.

    Even though I have not worn my ring on my left hand now for about 18 months, and it was not a long period that it was on, I still feel as though my hand is missing something. Occasionally I jump and think I have lost it as my finger feels so empty.

  2. I wore my sons class ring on a necklace for at least the first year. Now it's put away. You are right, you have to do what is right for you!

  3. I took my ring off the morning after Laura died, she died shortly before midnight after 20 days in the Critical Care Unit. For me it was as the wedding ceremony states, "till death do us apart." And death certainly made a sudden parting. Even after two years I occasionally find my thumb caressing where my ring use to be.

    Our rings are nested together in a keepsake box that Laura had given me when she went on a study abroad semester and I was stuck at college in the US.

  4. I wore my wedding band for four or five months after the unexpected death of my husband, the love of my life. Looking at my wedding band became too painful. Accepting that he was not coming back was and still is painful beyond anything I can describe. I couldn't bear putting my wedding band away in the safe for my daughters to inherit one day. I took my engagement ring, my wedding band, and Rich's wedding band and had all three made into one ring; a gorgeous ring that I wear proudly. When I look at our rings melded together, I feel pride and joy at the beautiful symbol of our love. Each of us on this journey has to do what makes going forward less painful. I know Rich would understand that I had to blend our rings together so that I can wear them without feeling pain and loss. Every time I receive a compliment on my gorgeous ring, I tell them that it is a symbol of the love my husband and I shared and still share.

  5. I soooo get this Cassie.
    I too sometimes feel like there’s something wrong with me – like I’m grieving wrong because I prefer the sting of pulling the bandaid off quickly.
    But I innately knew that I wouldn’t survive if I didn’t keep moving forward.
    I immediately searched out grief support groups when Dave died and got an individual counselor as well.

    I took my ring off after a year, but like you I totally grasp the desire to keep wearing it.
    And I too would be distraught if I lost it.
    But I was ready.

    And after 3 years I sold our home of 18 years and downsized.
    It was beautiful, and I miss it (especially at Christmas), but it was time for me. It was becoming a burden.
    But I can understand the need or desire to get out much sooner, or to stay indefinitely.
    And I still have boxes of his clothing that I fully intend to depart with and hopefully soon. I keep them for some friends and his family that have expressed an interest in some belongings when I mentioned it to them, but have never really come by to get any. (I would be mortified to tell somebody that the item they’re interested in was given to Goodwill.)
    And I keep things for our twenty something son, who has no room to store things currently.
    But I, personally, am ready to let go of all but a precious few items.

    Don’t get me wrong though.
    My mind still reels in confusion occasionally.
    Usually I smile and think that Dave would like the place I found, but just this weekend I remember pulling out of my driveway and wondered how this was my house and my life?
    How could Dave just be gone from my life?
    (It’s been over 3 1/2 years and my brain still gets tripped up on that.)

    Anyway. Thank you for this Cassie.
    I’m sure a few more of us feel normal again after reading this.

  6. Awww this is so sweet. And no, I still havent found it, and Im still devastated, and I too, feel nauseous, like you did the first time you took yours off. Youre so right. We all do whatever works for us to make it through the day. Sometimes I dont even know what that IS until I try things. Sometimes Im wrong. I try to just follow how I FEEL and go with that, and right now, I FEEL awful without that ring on my finger. I feel naked and bad and sad as hell. The weird thing is that I moved it to my right hand almost immediately after he died. For some reason, doing THAT was not hard at all. I just moved it without much thought. But in the same way that you said wearing your ring felt like a lie - for me, NOT wearing it feels like a lie, because I feel married. I guess I will feel married to him, until I dont anymore. Thanks for caring. Love you xoxo

  7. I wear a ring on my wedding finger, but my wedding band actually broke about 6 months after my husband died. Batman was our running thing, since he'd been wearing a Batman shirt the day we met. I found a titanium black batman ring online, and wear it constantly. It's thick enough that when i'm having a really bad day, I can wear his wedding band, and the Batman ring will hold it in place. I can't think of taking off my ring. I've tried a few times, but, for's on.

  8. I quit wearing my wedding ring many years ago when I started walking. It was uncomfortable and I'd take it off and then stopped wearing it. I'd occasionally wear my wedding ring and other rings if I was going out and would dress for the occasion. But mostly I just quit wearing rings. My husband lost his ring twice and didn't find it the second time. I also lost my diamond from my engagement ring shortly after we married. I never seemed to bother either of us. It was just a symbol. But now it is strange because even though he is gone I still feel married. And sometimes I think maybe I should start wearing my ring again. But I think it would just hurt too much and remind me of my current cricumstances. Recently at a friends house another person who did not know my circumstances was there and asked if I was married. Yes I do feel still married. But I couldn't answer and just shook my head no. No one who knew I was a widow could rescue me since they didn't hear. It sure was heart wrenching to be asked that question. It all just feels so strange. Kelley hope you find your ring. I've known people who have found lost rings in strange places.,

  9. My experience with my ring was similar to yours; it was a lie; it was holding me back; I realized in some strange way I was "waiting for him" to come home by keeping it on; I was nauseated to taking it off, it had only been removed once during a medical procedure in 32 years; when I took it off (needing soap and a great deal of effort) it never went back on; I wrote an email to my adult children so they knew of my decision and the "whys" and that it wasn't because I was "ready to date"; and truly best said as you do, "I wanted my outside to meet my reality." Those words are so good for me. Not this New Years Eve, but the one before, I was miserable without my love, m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e!; I had friends, couples, who invited me over but I refused to be an "add on" that day/night; I felt like I was (and have often felt this in my journey) alone and I needed to BE ALONE. It WAS/IS my reality. I AM ALONE. Others often are uncomfortable with that. I find that honestly, others are often uncomfortable with the truth. But for me, I can only face this truthfully. I cannot, I refuse to sugar coat the depths of my pain and the difficulty of my new life and how much I don't want it or like it; but I keep walking; I don't anymore, go on and on about the hardness of my life as I have found most are not interested and often think I'm having a pity party (NOT!!!! Let them try living this day after day!! It's easy to "imagine" it when your hubby comes home everyday after work and you lie down next to him every night in his arms - my reality is NOTHING like when he is on a business trip!!); anyway, I digress. Yes, for me, my outside must match my reality. I call that the "real deal", no fakes, no pretenses, sometimes raw emotion, but you know what, I will own what I feel because it's mine.

    1. EXACTLY.....I could not have said this any better...thanks for putting it into words:)

  10. I lost my husband 18 months and 13 days ago and I still wear my wedding ring on my left hand...and I wear his right under mine. Although I know that everyone deals with grief and loss (and all other parts of life!) differently, for me, that is how I feel most comfortable. I still consider myself a wife and very much still feel married; I'm not sure that will ever change.
    Kelley, I am so very sorry that you still have not found your ring. I assume from reading your blog that you are not a praying person, but I have prayed that you will find it many times since your post. I can only imagine what it feels like to have something that is so much a part of you - of you AND your husband - gone. I am desperately hoping that you will find it, but if you feel still like his wife, then you are...with or without your ring.

  11. My husband was killed in an accident just over three years ago. I still wear my wedding ring on my left hand. Frankly, it doesn't fit any other finger and to resize it means losing the engraving on the inside - our initials and the date of our wedding.

    During the first year after he died, I was so angry at times that I contemplated taking off the ring and tossing it out the window of the car as I drove down the highway. A few times I took it off and put in my jewelry box, but always ended up putting it back on my finger before the day was out.

    My husband loved my ring, and it is quite special as it has set in it the diamonds from my grandmother's ring. I don't own many pieces as nice as this ring, and it seems a shame not to wear it.

    But mostly what keeps it on my finger is that I've realized that I want to wear it: When I see other widows wearing their rings, even seeing a movie or TV character who's a widow still wearing her ring, I feel glad, reassured. That tells me I want to wear mine, at least for the time being. So I do.

    Maybe I'll take it off one day. Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll buy myself some narrow, stacking rings to wear next to it so it doesn't look so wedding ring-ish. I play with all these ideas and know that the decision is mine alone to make - and it needn't be made this minute.

    We all grieve differently, and I know other widows who have removed their rings. I think each of us has to do what feels right, and I think that may change from day to day. So move the ring to another finger, take it off for a period of time, put it back on, combine it with other rings. Whatever it takes. This road is hard enough.

    Kelley, I hope you find your ring so you can have the full range of choices about what to do with it.