One of the questions I'm often asked, probably more than any other - "is it ok if I still wear my wedding ring?" and also " is it ok if I stop wearing my wedding ring?"
The answer to both is of course.
There is no one fits all answer for grief, it's always based on how YOU feel, what YOU want, and what makes you feel comfortable. We are all different, and we need to be led by our own hearts. The thing with grief is that there are no rules, you make your own rule book, that works for you, and you alone.
I wore my wedding rings religiously for a year after he died, I wanted to feel as close to him as I could, and wearing my rings made me feel like he was close by. As time passed, I would find myself talking about "my husband" in the present tense and people would often ask about him, in the present tense. I then had to explain he was no longer here, and I was met with either stunned silence, a sympathetic head tilt followed by "I'm sorry" or just a confused face, for here was I, talking about my husband like he was still here.
I did this so I didn't feel excluded from everyone talking in the now about their lives, sharing stories of partners.
I felt so socially excluded, when I became widowed, my life became past tense, my stories were all about times gone by, nothing in the now and no plans for the future. It was heart breaking.
It came to a point when I asked myself why I still wore my rings. I wanted to keep him close, I wanted others to see I was still loved by someone. Did I need a ring for this, I challenged myself.
I decided to get both our wedding rings made into one ring, a twisted infinity band studded with two diamonds from my engagement ring that I wore on my right hand. He was still close, but it avoided the questions about my obvious wedding ring on the wedding finger.
He still felt close.
Now, I don't wear it. Not out of disrespect, not because I don't care or love him anymore - just because I don't need to prove anything to myself anymore.
As time has passed, I've learned to love him inside, in my head, with my memories rather than in a more outwardly obvious way. I had photos of him everywhere after he died. I wore his jumper, I wore his aftershave, his favourite books now became my favourite books, his favourite songs, now mine. I am sure you get the gist.
Now, I remember our lives together with huge fondness. He was and is my soul mate, but I don't need anything outside of the memories to prove that anymore. It was only ever for me anyway.
There are a couple of photos of him around, along with photos of my friends and family, I have my own taste in music that he always hated, I don't feel obliged to try to love his weird taste in literature anymore.
I love him, and that's all that I need. I don't need a ring to remind me of what I had. I know because I feel it inside. I see it in the strength I've gained since he died. The new me is because of him, and that will always keep him close, tucked safely inside my heart, while I continue to carve the best future I can for myself.
This is just my story. You might feel differently, or disagree, and that's okay. The journey is ours and ours alone to make, nothing is right or wrong, it's just what works for you, so do what you need to, it will always be the best answer if it works for you.
Helping Others Understand
This can be quite a tricky one if you're seeing this from the outside and looking inwards. Some people see the removal of rings as disrespectful, and others see it as creepy when you wear rings when you're "not even married" (the words of a friend to me 3 months after his death, and I was wearing his ring).
The short answer here is, you just can't win as a widow/er really, can you? We're judged for wearing, judged for removing, so sod it, we have to do what is right for us, and we just hope for a little understanding and empathy from those who matter by showing support, whatever the decision.
You might not understand it, and it might not make sense to you, but trust that the person having to make this unbearable decision in the first place is trying to make the right decision, and they need your support in doing so.
Just be there, be present, be kind and listen.
Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/AKbE5xlIZXA