Reading selection (from the After Journey)

My Goal for the After Journey Book

aj_front_coverReading this book is like participating in a bereavement group or writing to someone on a chat line trying to connect with others who have walked this road of widowhood. It allows you to find comfort in knowing you are not alone and that you will move through this so-called “after journey” successfully. This book is not about stages of grief, but about the feelings you face as you experience the personal changes in the face of grief. This book also allows others to really understand what someone who has lost a partner is going through. Here is an excerpt:

Wedding Rings

I loved my wedding rings. They represented that I was special and that you chose me. I belonged and I was safe. I was loved and would never be alone again. I washed my rings once a week. I stared at them for 13 years in wonderment. You picked me. And then you left me.

A few months after my husband died, more pain of singledom hit me in the face. I believed if I moved my rings off my left hand, I was progressing through grief, which was so physically and emotionally consuming that it drowned me. I fought my grief by playing this game with my fingers, hoping that by controlling where I put my ring I’d be able to control the grief. I moved my engagement ring and wedding band to my right hand for a few minutes, then an hour, then weekdays. Every weekend, I moved them back to the wedding finger. Weekends were the loneliest. My friends were all with their spouses and children. I faced suicidal Sundays alone. But if I wore my rings, I felt safer and I belonged again.

Secure in my new living routine, I had the rings resized to fit on the middle finger of my left hand. I put them on proudly and left the jewelry store only to come home, cry hysterically, go back the next day and have the jeweler resize them for my wedding finger.

Months later, my body told me it was time to move my rings. I practiced again. I moved the wedding band to the middle finger on my left hand and I moved the engagement ring to my ring finger on my right hand. They looked so lonely. I solved the problem by putting little bands on the front and back of each ring. I now felt that my rings had company.

I took my husband’s ring and made it into a necklace. I feel very comfortable with this new setup. I wanted and needed to move my rings because in my social world, I am single and I need to remember that fact. I wear my rings and necklace every day. They still make me feel special and that I belong. And every now and then, when I’m alone at home, I put my original set back on the wedding ring finger of my left hand. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I smile but I always feel loved and not alone.

What we do with our wedding rings is a very personal issue for each of us. We didn’t ask to be single. We are not divorced. I believe whatever we do in our timeline is right.

I am 27 going on 28 next month. About one year and five months after my husband’s accident, I took off my wedding band and the engagement ring. I kept it in my drawer because I decided to release my husband to the Lord and close this chapter in my life. Closure doesn’t mean to forget him. As for his ring, I actually got it back from the hospital when they gave me his belongings. I decided to wear it for him when he was embalmed and dressed up. I wore it and said to him, “We’ll meet again in heaven” because I still very much wanted him to be my lifetime soul mate. Then I took the ring off and put it on his finger. He was cremated with his ring. After the cremation, I was told the diamond didn’t melt but I never searched through the ashes to find it because my relatives suspected the cremators would have taken it and kept it for themselves. I could have used the diamond and made a pendant for my daughter in memory of her daddy. In hindsight, I have no regrets because I wasn’t myself right after his death. ~Abby S.


I didn’t remove my rings. I can’t imagine why I would want to.
~Joyce S.


My fingers were swollen from arthritis and I couldn’t wear my ring. I had to take it off and I felt unmarried. I hated it. It was bad enough that I lost him. I didn’t want people to look at me and think I wasn’t married because I still felt married. When the arthritis medicine took effect eight weeks later, and the swelling subsided, I immediately put on the ring and felt joyous.
~Janis S.


I have not removed my rings and have kept them on the same finger as always. I really have no intention of taking them off, ever. I still feel that we are married. Maybe that sounds crazy to some people, but it is the way I truly feel. This ring is special because he gave it to me for Mother’s Day. It has rubies and diamonds. He absolutely loved rubies and he really seemed to enjoy buying them for me whenever he could. He had always planned to buy a bigger ruby for me. Now that will never happen. For a while, I wore his ring on a chain around my neck. Later, I moved his ring to my right hand (of course it’s too big, but I refuse to have it resized) and anchored it with a smaller ring to keep it on my finger.
~Kathe W.


Last week I sat in the car and cleaned the cookie dough from my rings. When I finished, I went inside to play cards and my diamond ring was gone. I was devastated. Several people helped me look and look. We tore the car and my purse apart. We looked on all of the steps I had taken getting into the building. I had had that ring for 50 years. I couldn’t be without it now. Then I saw it! I had put it on my other hand! I can’t imagine taking my rings off.
~Lana S.


Rings…mmmmmm! Such a dilemma! I still wear mine. I think about it all the time. I just can’t take them off. I feel like I would be letting him down if I stopped wearing them. I’m not sure if someday I’ll feel differently, but not yet. A widower in a group I had attended said he came home from the funeral and took off his ring. He said, “We’re not married anymore.” I envy his acceptance of the situation. In his mind, it was just a fact. I think it also depends on what you are looking for. If you are interested in a new relationship, it will be easier to remove or move the rings. I’m not interested. Some people think I’m not moving on, but that’s my business. Maybe it’s not healthy, I don’t know. But right now, all I can do is what is right for me.
~Lauren S.


Today I have taken off my wife’s ring. I have been wearing it, with my own wedding ring, on my ring finger, since the night she died. I told a lie. I took it off and put it on another finger when I did a marathon—the Sunday after the funeral. I then put it back on my ring finger for a few days.

Then I took it off my ring finger again and put it on another finger. My neighbor came over and we sat in the garden before taking my kids for pizza. En route, I realized that I had lost my wife’s ring. I kept it to myself but I was distraught.

I told my friend on the way back. We searched. She found it in the garden. I was so relieved. I would have been devastated if I had lost it. I put it back on my ring finger.

Later, I put it on my right hand to a fatter finger for safekeeping. The problem was that the end of that finger started to turn white. It hurt so much. I came home and used water, olive oil and soap to get it off. Nothing was working and I got panicky! I was really desperate. Shit, I’m going to have to hack my finger off. After about an hour, it came off and my finger was red raw, not white anymore. Subsequently, both rings got back onto the ring finger. And there it has stayed, on my ring finger, next to mine, until today, nearly three months after my wife’s death.

I have really anguished over taking it off. I have asked a couple of people about where I should wear it. My mom said I should always keep it on my ring finger; I was married for life. I mentioned her opinion to my friends the other day. They said it was up to me, though one friend said many people wear it on a chain. Why have I made this so complicated?

I have really questioned why I want to take it off. Do I not want to send messages to single women that I am married? Probably there is a part of this in me, but the whole relationship thing is, well…I don’t want to be in a relationship. I think, at least as much, that I don’t want people to assume I am married, and in a “normal” relationship. No! My wife has died actually, and it was horrible, and there’s just the three of us left and it’s hard!

Anyway, today it made the journey to my little finger of my right hand. My own ring is on the ring finger of my right hand. This arrangement might work out.
~Jeff P.


I have been widowed for one year and three months. Shortly after the anniversary of my husband’s suicide, I took off my wedding rings. Somehow this gesture seemed to reinforce my emerging image as “just me” without my beloved husband. We had been married 26-plus years at the time of his death, and his suicide was a completely unexpected event in my life. Around two months later, I looked at my rings in the jewelry armoire he had given me and I thought, “I need to put the rings back on. I am never going to be “just me; he will always be a part of me.” I told my best friend that I had put the rings back on and she commented, “I guess you’re not through being married to him yet.” That is true. Maybe someday I will feel single, but I’m not there yet.
~Ellie M.