Wedding ring of Marjorie Brimley DC widow blog writer that was remade into a cocktail ring
New Perspectives

The Ring

I took it off for the first time as an experiment.

Since the day I was married, I wore my wedding ring constantly.  I know many people take their rings off every night but that wasn’t me.  I knew if I took my ring off, I’d lose it.  So no matter where I was – the pool, the gym, the sink, the bed – I kept my wedding ring on.

As we gained financial stability, Shawn would ask me if I wanted a “nicer” ring someday.  “No!” I always told him, emphatically.  I loved that ring.  “I don’t want a new ring,” I’d say to him.  “This is the ring you gave me we were young and broke and totally in love.  I never want a different one.”

That always made him smile.

When Shawn died, I did not take off my ring.  Honestly, I didn’t even think about taking off my ring.  Why would I do that?  I was still married to Shawn, even if he was dead.  I wasn’t suddenly putting “Ms” instead of “Mrs” in front of my name and I wasn’t taking off my ring.

But time passed.  And so did my thinking about the ring.

Six months after Shawn died, I left my kids for a few days and booked a hotel room by myself.  It was there that I first took off my ring.

I wrote about what happened, but to summarize, I met a man – the first one I’d found attractive since Shawn’s death.  Because the ring was off, he saw me as a free, single girl.  Which – technically – I was.

The next day, I put my ring back on.  He saw me at the hotel restaurant that day and we chatted.  “You’ve got your ring back on,” he said.

“Yes,” I said simply.  We didn’t talk further about it.  I knew I’d never see him again, so I didn’t need to elaborate.

For the next few weeks, I took the ring on and off a dozen more times.  It’s funny because I wasn’t sure it was coming off for good when I finally stopped wearing it.  I just decided to take it off one day and never put it back on.

It sat in my jewelry box for months.

“I need to do something with my ring,” I told Michelle and Becky one day last fall.  “Like make it into something else, or have it re-set.  I don’t know.  Any ideas?”

“Well,” Michelle said, “I know a great jewelry shop.  Maybe we should go there.”

We did.  Of course they both came with me and we poured over different ideas with the shop owners.  “You don’t have to decide today,” Michelle reminded me many times.

“What about something like this?” the shop owner asked.  She showed me an image on her phone.

It was beautiful.  “Yes,” I said, “that’s what I’m looking for.”

It still took a number of trips there and lots of personal reflection time, but eventually, I gave them my ring and asked them to make it into something new.  (And because I love to plug places that do great work, it was Mystique Jewelers in Alexandria, Virginia.  No, they do not know I am writing this.  But they were kind and compassionate and did great work, and I want to recognize that.)

I went and picked up the new ring in early November.  It was beautiful.  They’d used a few extra diamonds from some earrings Shawn gave me, but the rest of the ring was comprised of pieces from my wedding band.  It was different from the original piece.  But I could still see my old ring in the new ring.

I wear the new ring on my right hand as a cocktail ring.  I don’t always have it on, because it’s a bigger piece of jewelry and because I like to save it for special occasions.  But I love that when I’m going out to an event or getting dressed up for some reason, I can carry a piece of Shawn with me.

“Are you going to wear it forever?” Claire asked me one night when I put it on.

“Probably,” I said.  “I like that it’s similar to my wedding ring, but just a bit different.  Because I’m not really married anymore, but Daddy will always be my husband.  Does that make sense?”

She made a face.  “But it looks like an old lady ring!  It’s all twisty and messy and stuff,” she said.

I laughed.  I was trying to tell her about the complications of widowhood.  I was trying to explain how I often still feel married even though I’m not really married anymore.  But sometimes those nuances are lost on a 9-year-old.

She took the ring in her hand and studied it.  I felt her hand in mine, and thought about everything that the ring stood for, especially my marriage and my children.  I held her hand tightly as she touched the stones in the ring.

That evening, I went out and I twirled the ring around my finger as I laughed into the wee hours of the morning over too many Moscow Mules.  As the night ended, someone else held my hand.  As he did, I could feel the coolness of my ring on his fingers.  It was an odd feeling, because I felt Shawn with me in that moment, even as I sat next to someone new.

I wasn’t beginning a new life and leaving my old one behind that night.  I was just holding the hand of a man who was not Shawn.  In a way, I was trying out a new reality.  I was experimenting with what the future might look like for me.  One in which I’ll always be Shawn’s wife, but one in which I also might also reach toward someone who isn’t him.

Maybe that’s why I like the ring so much.  It’s the past and the future, all wrapped together in one complicated web of “twisty messiness.”  My daughter thinks it looks too complicated and crazy.

But I think it’s beautiful.


  • John M

    Thanks for this piece.

    After five months since my wife passed, I recently decided to take my wedding band off.
    It’s only been a week or so since I made that decision. It was not the original band, which I lost on a road trip we took two years ago or so, but it still held the same meaning for me.

    Feels strange not feel the weight of the band on my finger. Still weird to think I am not married to her. But, as you say in your piece, we will always be married to them; they will always be a part of our hears and soul, even if we are holding someone else’s hand — not sure I am ready yet for that phase but yeah….

    I send positive vibes to you on this journey.

    • Marjorie

      Right after I took off my ring and realized I was going to leave it off forever, I remember thinking how strange it felt. Even now – more than 6 months later – I still have moments when I think, “oh, I forgot to put on my ring!”

  • Suzanne

    This is so, so beautiful Marjorie. Thanks so much for sharing all you do. What a great reminder that the “twisted messiness” of life is actually life itself – the past/future/sadness/happiness. It’s all life, and it’s all to be lived through, and celebrated through, and it’s beautiful.

    • Marjorie

      That’s the only way to do it – live through life, and celebrate when we can. Miss you, sister. Love you.

  • Anne

    I’m seeing a book coming out of these journal entries! A book that I wish was around 10 years ago. Thank you for writing!

    I felt such incredible guilt and indecision taking off my wedding ring and I think only other widows/widowers would understand what a big deal it is. Mine came off(literally-in the washing machine) on a bad day a few months after my husband’s death. I didn’t know what to do with it so I put it in the safe deposit box at the bank. I was definitely in the “anger” phase at being left behind with all the work. I didn’t want to look at the ring. It was a reminder of a life that didn’t exist anymore. My ring is still in the safe deposit box but I do look at it when I go down to the bank. I have decided that I’m giving it to my son when he is ready to propose to someone.

    • Marjorie

      Oh, yes, the guilt. The very first time I tried taking mine off I was PLAGUED with guilt. I think it’s the same when you first do a lot of things as a widow, actually. The guilt – as my dad would say with a sarcastic tone, “guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.” I love the idea that your son will someday give it to someone new!

    • Laura

      Anne, I’m thinking about doing the same thing, letting whomever of my three boys getting engaged first use the solitaire diamond out of the ring. My engagement ring and wedding band were soldered together but I don’t see the sense in saving it as a set, to be stuck away in my jewelry box forever. I got remarried last summer and my new set is so completely different from my first one, I love the newness and freshness of it. But I love the thought of redoing the rings into something different or letting my kids use different parts of the gold and/or diamonds to make new starts of their own someday.

      • Marjorie

        I love these ideas so much! It would be so meaningful to get engaged with a ring from a marriage that was really happy.

  • Melissa

    Shortly after my husband died, I was looking for something in his desk and I found his wedding band in a spot that would have been hard for me to miss. I’m not sure if he took it off during his radiation treatments or as a precaution against it coming back to me taped to the top of the box containing his ashes like my mother’s ring did with hers. Every time I looked at my band it made me sad, so I took it off and put it inside his, where it fit perfectly. It is weird not to have my ring on after 42 years and I find myself automatically going to that finger to twist it when I’m anxious or contemplating something important. Which has been a lot lately. But I doubt that I’ll put it back on at this point. My ring belongs within the protecting circle of his and that’s where it will stay.

    • Marjorie

      I love that image – of your ring inside his. I keep Shawn’s on a necklace that I sometimes wear around my neck. It always makes me feel comfortable having it there.

  • Michelle

    Yes, it is a personal decision and everyone makes it in their own time and in their own way. There certainly is no right or wrong way.

    • Marjorie

      I AGREE. I know people who never take off their rings and others who take them off the day of the funeral. It is most definitely a personal decision!

  • Jacqueline

    I stumbled upon this article as I googled, “when should you take off your wedding rings?” My husband died a little over a year ago. I had taken my wedding ring off at about month 10 because it became this sad reminder that he was not coming back. My band has stayed off and on ever since that. Some days I wear it, other days I take it off in the middle of the day and stare at my empty hand. Again today, I went for a walk and just took it off. I do a lot of praying to God, to the universe, and to my husband. But today was different. I took it off, and although my hand was bare, it was a beautiful sight. I am still here and there is a reason for that. I can’t say that it will stay off, but I get a sense that it will, and maybe just maybe, it will help me continue to heal. I stumbled upon your website and I think there was a reason I did.

    • M Brimley

      I’m so sorry for your loss, but I am so glad you’re here. If it’s helpful, I took my wedding ring off many times before I decided to take it off for good. I have plenty of widow friends who still wear their rings years later, and others who took their rings off right away. There’s no one right answer and nothing is permanent.

  • Sheila

    It has only been 3 weeks since I lost my husband of 22 years. My original wedding set sits in a box in my dresser. We were so poor when we married that he wanted me to have something better. We decided not to spend money on an expensive set so it is a CZ solitaire and band. I can’t imagine taking it off just yet but know it will never be repurposed or passed down either. Has anyone ever heard of wearing the engagement ring first since you are no longer considered married?

    • M Brimley

      Definitely. I’ve heard of people doing all sorts of things (moving it to the other hand, wearing only part of it, wearing it around their neck on a necklace, etc.) and I think you just have to do what feels right to you. There’s no one right way to do it!