Shazia Mirza: Diary of a disappointing daughter

I went to a funeral this week. The person who died was young. It was an Islamic funeral, so the body is washed by close female relatives – mother, sister, aunts – then covered in white cloth and placed in an open coffin. Family and friends can walk around it, pray and see their loved one for the last time.

As I stood there, I looked at the parents. Their pain was unimaginable. The grief and loss, I suppose, is indescribable to people who haven’t experienced such tragedy.

My mum tried to explain to me: “I feel that, as parents, our main functions are to sleep, eat, reproduce, and get our children married. When your dad and I die, we’ll leave our children behind and they will carry on producing new generations. That gives us our sense of purpose. When those we give life to die before us, that extinguishes our sense of purpose.”

I have been to funerals before, but I have never felt more sad, upset or cried more. I just always thought our parents get old and die, and then when we get old, we die. But when things don’t happen in that order, it becomes tragically bewildering.

When my mum used to say, “It’s really hard bringing up five children,” I never knew what she meant. All of a sudden I began to realise.

All the women in the room looked at the parents and I could feel we were all thinking the same thing. “It is the most saddening thing in the world for parents to bury their children.”