"I SPENT the day sitting in his bedroom, crying. Then I decided to write him a letter.”

Urfana Ayub recalls the day she started writing to her beloved son, Adam. It was the fifth anniversary of his death, and she was overwhelmed with grief.

“I wrote him a letter, and it was like a door opened for me to speak to him,” says Urfana. “In my letter I told him how the world had changed, how I felt about losing him. I knew I would write to him again.”

Urfana went on to write a series of letters, now published in a book, My Letter To You - a self-help guide for bereaved parents. It follows a book Urfana wrote based on diaries she kept after Adam died.

Born in Pakistan, Urfana came to Bradford aged 19 in 1990, after getting married. Adam was her first child. He was born with a heart condition and had several operations, including open heart surgery, as an infant. “But he was growing well,” says Urfana, of Heaton. “He was a happy child. He went to Bradford College and to Leeds Met University to do a degree in a youth and community work.

“He seemed to be doing fine. He loved football, cars, boxing and music. He enjoyed spending time with friends, like other boys his age. Then he had a stomach ache for a few days and went to hospital for a check-up. I had no idea he would never come home.”

Adam had fluid on his lungs and a chest infection. On December 27, 2009 he died of pneumonia, aged 18. “He died in front of my eyes,” says Urfana. "It was so sudden, I couldn't believe it was happening."

As a social worker and counsellor, Urfana was used to helping people with emotional issues. But nothing prepared her for losing her own child. “No mother is ready for that,” she says. “It was my first experience of death and bereavement. I had never even been to a graveyard.”

While waiting months for bereavement counselling, Urfana started keeping a diary. “It was the first time I’d ever written anything. I wanted to express my feelings about Adam and it helped me so much I didn’t need counselling," she says. “I have a lovely husband and family, but my grief was so much to take in. I looked to my faith, but didn’t know where the answers were. So I kept writing. Sometimes I wrote daily, sometimes after a week, or when I was upset, or on occasions when I missed Adam. I reflected on my child, my life, my feelings.

"I decided to give myself a year then I’d stop the diary. I didn’t want to rely on it. I’ve seen clients with coping mechanisms they can’t let go.”

But realising that her diary could help other parents who had lost a child, Urfana used it to write a book called After You Were Gone. “It’s very raw emotion, written from a mother’s heart. It’s for anyone who has had a loss,” she says. “I wanted to help others cope and move on from their grief.”

When she told her family about her plans for book, they were surprised. "They knew I'd been writing but they didn't know what. I had faith that if my words helped me face the biggest tragedy of my life, they could help others too. My book offers a message of hope and an invitation to reflect."

After it was published in Pakistan in 2011 there was feedback from around the world. “I had emails from America, Dubai, everywhere. People said it brought comfort after losing a loved one,” says Urfana.

She was encouraged to keep writing. My Letter To You, published last October, also prompted a positive public response. Both books were published in Urdu (Taray Janay Kay Baad and Maray Khat Taray Naam), and now there are English translations .

“I hope they will now help even more people,” says Urfana. “A loss is a loss in any community. Emotions are the same, whatever your culture.

"I'm lucky with the love and support from my husband, my children and the rest of my family. It is crucial to have support around you.”

* Urfana Ayub's books, by Adam Publication, are available in libraries and at adamayub.co.uk

The English versions will be launched at Bradford Hotel on Saturday, April 29 at 6pm. The event includes speakers Masarrat Misbah, Craig Hammond and Alyas Karmani. Tickets are available on adamayub.co.uk or from Mahmoods, Leeds Road and Oak Lane, Bradford.