911. A different anniversary of loss

911. A Different Anniversary of Loss

September 11, 2013. 911.

Not my usual habit but I have lit a candle this morning while I waited for the computer to boot up. It doesn’t even usually sit on my desk, but I moved it there yesterday unwittingly. My special spiral tear drop candle, made of pure organic honey-colored bee’s wax. The flame is bringing calm. The longer I explore this phase of my life the more I appreciate ritual, symbolism and spirit.

It’s my 30th wedding anniversary today.

The thought stands alone. There is nothing else to say. It is a date on the calendar. 18 months since Dave passed over. I’m liking that euphemism, because it leaves room for after life, being somewhere else, just not here. Over. There.

I am a widow. It took me most of the first year to say that with any confidence. Maybe I mean without fear – fear of judgement or stigma or misuse of the title. Does one say widow with confidence? I am a widow with ownership. It’s the secret code to others who also call themselves widow. The key that says yeah, I get “it” if only in my own way.

Now It is a title – Joan Hitchens. Navigating Grief: Founder. Certified Coach. Widow.

All of these titles were earned in the last 20 months. Wow. That’s amazing! Reconfigurations from decades of experiences and education.

The ring. The vows. The boat ride. Dave’s daughter was married on Sunday. He was there, but only in spirit. But he was. A heron flapped its way past the front of the car half a block form the house on our hurried way to the ceremony. I live in a city on the water, but in 14 years I’ve never seen a heron in the neighborhood. I did see one gorgeous blue heron in Costa Rica last February during my healing getaway on his death anniversary. The heron is a (recurring for me) symbol of self-reflection. And flight.

Dedi’s wedding held many parallels to Dave and mine – Sunday in September (at least she had the forethought to not coincide with the football game!), garden venue; written vows (beautiful!), and a boat ride on the lake. This was comforting rather than making me sad. I am glad for the recalled memories and reminders now. She was beautiful. They exuded happy.

The ring. It’s been on and off my left hand for the past month. I’ve had to practice the naked and vulnerable feeling that accompanies changing something so familiar. It is not my marriage any longer. I am not married. The other day I was getting an insurance quote and when my relationship status came up I said widow; she parroted single. (What risk factor is either of those?) I am not Single in my mind. I am Solo. A Widow.

My ring is symbolic and I am not married. There is no us together day to day. The stronger widow becomes my title the easier the ring slips off. This doesn’t mean I have forgotten, or that I am looking to date. It means I am not married. I have lost enough weight that I have old rings – I mean other symbolic rings I’ve worn many years before – with grandmother stones, one of my mom’s favorite I’ve inherited – they fit now. They didn’t six months ago. I mix them up every once in a while. I try them on. They look nice, but obvious. At least to me.

My right hand 20th anniversary ring stays. It is my history. Our history. The growth of our love. It slides around my finger and perhaps I will have it re-sized, in time. There is no reason to remove this ring, and every reason to keep it symbolically.

I was sent my mother’s mother wedding engagement ring last week. The diamond was removed long ago, but the little sapphires and tiny diamonds surround the filigree. Retro, antique, estate now, a symbol for my grandparents in the 1920’s almost 100 years ago. I’ve worn the guard ring with my own set since the day I was married. We sentimentally mimicked the inscription of initials “D to J” and “J to D.” I even did so on the inscription for the memorial jewelry I wear. A final gift of gold.

The ring was an offering to our daughter Leah who was recently engaged. She has chosen her own (understandably, and an interesting sidebar to this story) so this will remain with me. The set is together again. September’s birthstone is the sapphire, so I am considering to fill the ring center with the blue gem for our anniversary month (also Dave’s birthday), a fit for my left hand. Blue is a color that suits me – in a good way, not the moody way!

It seems my 30th anniversary date is a good day to officially retire my wedding set. Not that I won’t wear it. I will. (I’m almost assured that an announcement means my ring will remain on for a bit longer – an act of self defiance.) I thought about this of course, but until this moment I wasn’t sure I could actually release these thoughts aloud. I hate to admit I’m willing to take off my ring; I feel compelled to put it on.

For me, to slip the wedding rings on our fingers to become one, was a changing moment. Married. We participated fully in our ceremony with invited family and friends to witness our commitment. Now the ring comes off. I have reached  ’til death do us part. The union represented by our vows and wearing the paired set are separated. The symbol of eternal, unending love, the rings, remain. Not necessarily on our fingers but certainly in my heart.

I’m blowing out the candle now.


4 replies
  1. Jean Tubridy
    Jean Tubridy says:

    Joan, I hope you are doing okay on a tough, tough day. Your post is so loving and I simply adore your reference to the heron.
    I must say I’m surprised about your approach to your wedding ring but I see exactly where you are coming from. I suppose I don’t believe that death does part us from those we love and who have loved us. But everyone has his/her own interpretation.

    Take care and know how much your grief support means right across the ocean.

    With love,


    • Joan H
      Joan H says:

      Nice to her from you, Jean. I often surprise myself as the pen flows. We are only parted physically for sure; the love is eternal and symbolized by the circle of the ring. I am not departed from love nor from memories or caring about Dave. In fact, my grief journey only reinforces how much our lives and marriage are internal to who I am today. On this earthly plane however, in society, in what it means to spend each day with my husband – this is no longer. The ceremony of marriage was a stark reminder. I continue to wear other jewelry and symbols of our many years together to keep him close to my heart.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.