At the funeral of his wife, popular television presenter Monta Mino put a very human face on grief.
Choking back tears, Mino said: "I don't want to say goodbye. I want to be with you forever."
The television clip struck a chord with viewers around the nation, partly because the 67-year-old dapper Tokyo native is such an institution on Japanese TV.
Guinness World Records lists him as the TV host with the most time spent on live TV appearances in a week at 22 hours and 15 seconds.
According to Yukihiro Sakaguchi, a professor of psychology at Kwansei Gakuin University, men have a much harder time than women in getting over the loss of a spouse.
He cited a 1995 U.S. study of people aged 60 or older, which found that widowers are 3.3 times more at risk of committing suicide than men whose wives are living.
For Takeshi Sasaki, a 69-year-old resident of Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, the death of his spouse prompted thoughts of suicide.
"I want to send an e-mail message to my wife in heaven and ask, 'How are you doing'?" said Sasaki.
His wife Teruko died unexpectedly at age 57 of a heart attack in February 2005 after playing a game of badminton.
That evening, Sasaki got a call saying she had been rushed to a hospital by ambulance. He arrived there to see her being given emergency cardiac compression.
At the time of her death, Sasaki had been retired for only six months and the couple was planning to visit Okinawa the following week.
In his last conversation with Teruko, Sasaki recalled that he asked, "What shall I wear to Okinawa?"
"I will prepare the clothing," Teruko said.
Sasaki was plunged into a deep depression after the hectic days leading up to the funeral.
He felt his strength ebbing and withdrew from social activities. Sasaki bought boxed lunches from a convenience store, which he recalled were tasteless, and washed them down with beer.
Sasaki often thought about ending it all by jumping in front of a train.
Looking in the mirror, he was shocked to see his reflection, specifically his sunken cheeks. He had lost 6 kilograms in three months.
About 100 days after Teruko's death, while Sasaki was observing Buddhist rites, he was contacted by Hidamari no Kai, a group set up to support people who are bereaved.
The group was the brainchild of Osaka-based Koekisha Co., which handled Teruko's funeral.
Formed in 2003, the group has a membership of 750. It serves as a venue for members to share their feelings and support each other.
Sasaki attended a meeting and poured out his feelings in a 10-member newcomer group.
"I was feeling that all the misery of the world rested on my shoulders," he recalled. "But I came to realize it was not just me who was suffering. That was a breakthrough."
Since then, Sasaki had attended the monthly meeting.
He even became friends with a man in similar circumstances: The man had lost his wife and had no children.
He said the two men share meals together occasionally.
Now, Sasaki participates in a nonprofit organization Izoku Sasaeai Net (Survivors support network), which was formed in 2009 by "graduates" of Hidamari no Kai.
His activities include opening up to medical experts about his loss.
Sasaki also is active in his community as a volunteer of a group to ensure school children return home safely.
OUTPATIENT SERVICES FOR BEREAVED FAMILIES
Saitama Medical University International Medical Center in Hidaka, Saitama Prefecture, provides counseling and other treatment for people who are bereaved.
The outpatient service was established in 2007.
Psychiatrist Hideki Onishi, who is in charge, has treated about 100 patients, of whom 40 were diagnosed as having depression.
While men account for only 20 percent of the patients, "It does not necessarily mean men suffer less," Onishi said. "Men tend to bottle everything up inside, even if they get depressed."
Kinshi Akiyama, 78, was one of Onishi's patients.
Until he retired, Akiyama was president of Tottori Sanyo Electric Co. As a corporate executive, Akiyama never got home before midnight and spent weekends playing golf with business partners. He had never attended his daughter's school events.
He was serving as an adviser to the company when his wife Atsuko fell ill.
Like many men of his generation, Akiyama had relied on his wife to support him in his career. She died at age 73 in 2010 after several years of battling disease.
He now says he regrets not having noticed her illness earlier.
Akiyama jotted down his guilt-ridden thoughts on his computer.
"You followed me wherever I was transferred," he wrote. "I'm sorry I did not take you to hot springs in Tottori. Sorry to have given you trouble."
Akiyama then came across a newspaper article about the outpatient service. He saw Onishi, who encouraged him to vent his feelings.
Akiyama took part in a group program overseen by Onishi and a clinical psychologist, with other survivors.
"I used to think men should not say such things as 'it is hard' or 'it's agony'," Akiyama said. "But through honestly talking about my feelings in a group session, I felt relieved."
Akiyama now lives alone in a condominium.
He tries to stay mentally engaged by playing "shogi," or Japanese chess, on the Internet by himself. He says he wants to ward off dementia.
Still, he misses Atsuko.
"It's hot, isn't it?" he says, as if his wife was still with him. He can almost hear her replying, "Yes, it is." But, of course, she is not there.
A man contacted by Hidamari no Kai had lost his power of speech after withdrawing from society in the months following his wife's death, a group official said. He was at such at loss, he had to send everything, even underwear, to a dry cleaner's since he had never learned to use the washing machine.
Sakaguchi, of Kwansei University, encourages lonely survivors to join groups such as Izoku Sasaeai Kai.
"It is my hope that they will get to know other survivors, share their grief and build trust," he said. "I hope they will find someone with whom they feel comfortable about traveling together or sharing a hobby, and find a new goal in life."
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