I've worked with many clients who are in counselling following the death of a loved one. I also have personal experience of losing a parent at a very young age. One of the main things I have learned is that no two people grieve in the same way. Grief, just like our DNA is unique to us all and there is no right or wrong way to deal with your loss. Sadly, a lot of the clients I see believe that they should be coping better. This may be because there's a perceived expectation from friends and relatives that you'll be back to your old self, or it may be because the pain and sadness is so unbearable that you understandably want some distance from it.
Grieving is a process and an important one at that. I was very successful at shutting away my feelings about my loss for many, many years and it wasn't until I had counselling some 20 years later, that I began to really grieve. Avoiding the grief won't make the feelings disappear, they will simply be suppressed inside us and may manifest themselves through physical symptoms such as aches and pains and being more prone to illnesses or through uncharacteristic emotional reactions such as anger, intolerance of others and sudden outbursts. There may even be no obvious symptoms of grief that we're aware of and it might just be that we've found a successful coping strategy and we don't want to rock the boat. Unfortunately, suppressed feelings have a tendency to demand attention and it could be that many years down the line, they start to take hold. It sometimes takes a trigger such as having a baby or the break up of a relationship that makes us realise that what we're really feeling is related to our loss. Talking about our feelings won't necessarily make symptoms disappear altogether but it can help us understand them and not make them quite so frightening. I think Proust was on to something when he stated that:
"to heal a suffering one must experience it to the full.."
Counselling can provide a space for you to talk openly about the person you've lost. Sometimes clients bring a photograph of the deceased along to sessions and this can be a very comforting way of making them a part of the process. The important thing to remember is that the time is yours to use however you wish and you are not required to 'be' a certain way. Your uniqueness and the uniqueness of the relationship with your loved one is celebrated and explored in a sympathetic, gentle way.