After a loved one passes away, we sometimes hold off doing certain things. We need to wait until the time is right to figure out exactly what it is we need to do to feel better.

I sobbed uncontrollably the first time I dared to pick up Mike’s favorite summer hat and smell the inside of it. His strong scent made me feel as though Mike was standing in the room with me. It was comforting, frightening and miserable all at once. I didn’t know a hat could hold so much control over one’s emotions.

It took a few months before I could pick up the hat again. I inhaled the familiar smell and wept for as long as I needed until I couldn’t cry anymore. Still, I needed to work out how to exist with the hat taking up space in the condo. I didn’t feel I could throw it away, nor could I donate it. It was a fixture for Mike during the summer months. I have many photos of him wearing it. Also, I didn’t want to put it away and find it on occasion and then weep all over again.

I decided I would wear the hat during the summer, to make it less a sad object to avoid, and more one that could join me as I continued my journey to make new happy memories for myself.

I’d worn the hat once or twice while Mike was alive. I needed quick protection a few times when I was driving, to block out the sun shining in my eyes, so Mike took it off his head and plopped it onto mine. Wearing it then felt different. It had its owner. I was just borrowing it.

The first time I wore the hat I put it on and took it off several times. It felt as though I was using it without permission. It took a few wears for me to feel OK as its new owner.


I wore the hat during walks in the woods and solo car rides. I used it as sun protection while on the beach with friends as we soaked up the beautiful Maine weather.

Over the summer, the hat slowly lost Mike’s smell and took on my own. I felt sadness as our scents crossed paths and parted, but my emotion eventually adjusted to happiness as I made peace with the object.

I have now donated many of Mike’s belongings. I will keep the hat, though I may never wear it again. It’s a good reminder of how far I’ve come from the first time I picked it up.

Life feels more renewed with each milestone I reach. I have let go of items I thought I would keep forever, and kept things, such as this hat, that I didn’t think would mean so much to me.

I’m ready to figure out what new hat to wear in life!

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