I don’t have any friends with whom I can open up about my late husband

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 40s and I work part-time. My only daughter is a university student who doesn’t live at home.

My husband passed away when my daughter was very young. What I need advice about is the fact that I don’t have any friends with whom I can talk about myself. When some friends and I get together, they always complain about their husbands and say such things as, “I want a divorce” or “I wish he would just die.” I end up not being able to talk about myself, so those around me think that I just prefer not to.

Previously, when I spoke to someone — who I thought was my best friend — about my husband, they said, “Sorry, I’m really happy, so I can’t empathize with people who are unhappy.” I haven’t heard from them since. I became afraid that talking about my husband was taboo, so now I can’t talk to anyone about it.

I joined a bereavement group, but I haven’t developed any friendships as most of the members are elderly. When I talk to my older sister or my daughter about it, they think it’s just wasting words and give me annoyed looks. I suddenly feel very alone.

— W, Tokyo

Dear Ms. W:

Even though it has been many years since your husband passed, you still want to talk to someone about him. Your husband must have been a one-of-a-kind man.

Why not keep your thoughts about such an important person in your heart? It is said that a person who has passed away is more eloquent than a person who is alive. I think your time will be better spent talking to your husband in your heart. In my opinion, it would be a waste to talk about him in front of your friends, who seem to enjoy complaining about and bad-mouthing their husbands.

On the other hand, I do understand that you want to talk to someone, but it is important to find the right person. Otherwise, the person might only be half-heartedly listening to you, feel the need to preach to you or gossip about you later. You might eventually get hurt.

In order to find someone to whom you can open up without regret, you should first be a good listener yourself. You can talk to them about yourself after you get to know them better. You can also figure out what topics and way of talking make people feel more comfortable. For a cautious person like yourself, it is probably best to start out as a good listener.

— Masami Ohinata, university president