“My Boyfriend Died. What Should I Do With My Engagement Ring?”

Eleven weeks ago I lost my boyfriend to a hemorrhagic stroke caused by cocaine. I had no idea he used it and was shocked to the core. Months before his death we had talked about marrying and he bought me a ring. He told me he had hidden it. His kids, who are on their own, knew about the ring and found it shortly after he died. They were gracious enough to let me have it.

Initially, I was grateful because it was something of his I could cherish forever. I even had it sized to fit my left finger. The problem is, I feel like a hypocrite. I really don’t feel close to him anymore. If he had survived this tragedy, I would have ended the relationship after learning he was using cocaine. He lied to me and I can’t get over this. I need your advice on what I should do with the ring. Should I give it to his kids or what? I know he bought it for me, but I don’t feel right keeping it. Please help me. — What Should I Do With the Ring?

I’m so sorry for your loss and for the shock and mixed feelings you’re experiencing now as a result of learning about your boyfriend’s cocaine use.

The ring he gave you is yours. It belongs to you. Your boyfriend bought it for you as a symbol of his love for you, and that love doesn’t disappear because he’s dead or because he was keeping a secret from you or because your feelings for him may have changed since he bought it. At one point the ring would have symbolized your marital union, but it doesn’t symbolize that because you never married. Because of that, the ring — and the intention behind your boyfriend’s purchasing it — can forever be a symbol of the love you two shared and you should do with it whatever best honors that love.

I understand if you don’t feel right keeping it, so you need to think about what would feel better for you. You mention giving the ring to his kids. That might confuse them or make them think you’re rejecting their dad in his death. I can’t imagine the kids would want to keep and wear the ring themselves. They’d probably sell it and split the profit. Would that feel good to you – better than your keeping the ring or selling it yourself?

If you sold the ring, you could use the money to do something that might honor your boyfriend’s memory and/or the memory of your relationship. Just because you believe you would have returned the ring and broken up with him doesn’t mean you can’t honor and respect his memory. He was important to you. You loved him. That doesn’t go away even if your feelings have understandably changed in the weeks since his sudden death.

You are making a new life for yourself, probably quite different from the life you were only recently imagining you were about to begin. Maybe taking the stone of the ring and making a necklace from it or adding additional stones to create a new and different ring could be a meaningful way to symbolize your new beginning as you hopefully hold on to the good memories and take the positive parts of your relationship with you as you move forward. Maybe you could sell the ring as is and use the money to go on a vacation – a sort of “solo honeymoon.” Or you could donate the money to a cause that was important to your boyfriend or a cause that’s important to you.

You don’t have to decide anything right now. You could put the ring in a safe and wait until the shock and the hard edges of this early stage of grief soften a little before you decide what to do. The hard edges will soften, I promise. You may forever be angry that your boyfriend lied to you, but I hope in time you can forgive him and you can hold on to the positive memories that you shared. Not everything was a lie. The love was real, and he would want you to remember that and to forgive him for not being the man he probably very much wanted to be for you.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. I’m very sorry for your loss, LW. I would not return the ring to his children. They found it and gave it to you (when they didn’t have to, obviously) because they knew their father wanted it to be for you. Returning it to them is going to make them feel like you are dishonoring that, and I don’t think that is what you would intend.

    You’re processing a lot right now. I’d probably take the ring off and put it somewhere for safekeeping while you work your way through both the grief process and the feelings of betrayal and being lied to by your late boyfriend. When you’ve had time to process, then take the ring back out and see if any of Wendy’s lovely suggestions strikes a cord with you. If not, then maybe something else feels appropriate.

  2. I’m so sorry, LW. This is a lot to process and I don’t think you should make any decision right now. I agree with the idea of putting it away somewhere safe for a while until you’ve worked through your feelings. Do you have a safe deposit box? Can a friend keep it for you?

  3. anonymousse says:

    I normally side on the wait and see approach. Put it away somewhere you don’t have to see it often and think about this for awhile.

    If his kids are adults, I’d consider talking to them about it at some point. I don’t necessarily think they’d be offended if you told them it was hard to have this item when he hadn’t gifted it to you, that the emotions attached to it made you feel sad, not happy, or whatever you care to share with them. Most kids would appreciate any item of their father’s after his death, even if it wasn’t strictly intended for them. It might be very nice for them to have such a thing kept in their family, like a heirloom ring, etc.

  4. Silvermoonlight says:

    Don’t do anything right now, while the grief is still so raw.

    When it’s less intense, maybe consider selling it and donating the money to an organization that helps people overcome drug addiction–maybe even cocaine addiction in particular. This could be a way to turn a terrible revelation into something positive–and maybe help prevent another person from feeling the shock and grief of discovering their partner’s secret drug addiction in a traumatic way.

  5. What Wendy and other commentors said and also you could sell it and donate the proceeds to a non-profit that aids people in addiction, harm reduction practices or specifically in cocaine use awareness. I’m not implying your boyfriend was addicted, but perhaps that use of the ring may aid in your processing and healing. My condolences for your loss and heartbreak. I hope you have good support.

  6. dinoceros says:

    You should wait and make a decision later. In time, you may change your mind. If you get rid of it, you can’t get it back.

    That said, assuming it’s not a family heirloom, I’m not sure what purpose it would serve to give it to his children. It would have no meaning for them and would probably just be a burden for them to determine what to do with it. So, if you decide you don’t want it, then I’d recommend using one of Wendy’s other examples. I will say that there are plenty of people who keep mementos from prior relationships even if the relationship doesn’t work out and that doesn’t really make them a hypocrite. I don’t think that there’s any sort of criteria you have to meet in order for it to be OK for you to keep it. Just let some time pass and see how you feel about it later.

    1. anonymousse says:

      The purpose it could serve as given back to his children are they are his next of kin and she doesn’t want it. If it is worth money, I think it’s better to let them have it and determine what they want to do with it- sell it and split the money, donate, etc.

      1. Anonymous says:

        Eh, used jewelry IS not nearly as valuable as most think.

  7. Bittergaymark says:

    What a truly sad story. No doubt you were left reeling. Mind blown.
    Keep the ring. Giving it back to the kids now will only seem like a huge slap in the face. And I know that is in no way your intention. Keep the ring. Nobody is expecting you to wear it 24/7 — I hope. But keep the ring. To do anything else will cause unnecessary pain and drama for his children who are also surely just reeling as well.

  8. Good advice from Wendy to set it aside until you feel more clearheaded and have had time to heal. You don’t have to wear it, and you don’t want to do something in haste that you might regret later. If it hurts you to think about it right now, put it in a safe place out of sight.

  9. Agree, dont do anything with it yet. Eleven weeks is not a long time to process everything that has happened. How lovely his children gave that to you, right now keep it for their sake, just put it away somewhere where you wont see it.
    Look up the steps of grief too, I know it sounds daft but from memory I think there are 5 of them and I’m pretty sure 1 is anger. So what you are feeling is completely normal, the ring is really irrelevant at the moment it’s the significance of it that is bothering you- understandably so.
    When my grandma, whom I was very close with, passed away, i was left her wedding ring. At first i wore it but then one night i was randomly angry and i threw it across the room, there was no logic in this, she was a lovely woman, I was just angry because I’d lost her. You may possibly be angry for more than one reason.
    Take care and take time.

  10. allathian says:

    Put away the ring for now and decide what you want to do with it later. This is a lot to process, and 11 weeks is a very short time.

  11. I think you’re being a little hard on a dead guy.
    You didn’t know he was using and don’t mention if it was an ongoing thing or a one time event gone wrong. You were serious enough/loved enough about this guy to be planning to marry him but all that is out the window cause he used coke and lied about it? I don’t think you are in the right emotional state to do anything with this ring right now. Put it in a drawer and deal with it after some therapy. Whatever you do DONT put your judgements anger on his kids. They are going through enough right now.

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