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I blame my stepmother for my father’s death

Monday July 22 2019

Philip Kitoto

There is this feeling that guilt brings that seems to make us feel like the life of the departed was cut short because there is somehow something we did not do. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH 

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Hello Philip Kitoto,

I am an ardent reader of your articles. May God bless you for your wisdom and good advice. I am 25 years old.

My mom died when I was only three. My dad died this year on May 23. The circumstances surrounding his death hurt me to date and I don’t know how to deal with the pain.

First of all, you should know that my family has always turned to God in prayer whenever we are unwell so when my dad fell sick, he refused to go to hospital, believing his faith would heal him.

But I could see his health was deteriorating fast so I involved the police who forced him to go to hospital.

My stepmother was at his side all along but strangely, she refused to tell me what was ailing him. Even when I insisted, she just kept saying that the reason my dad was unwell was that he had been bewitched by my other stepmother who lives in Mombasa. She insisted that the doctors had been unable to determine the cause of his illness. She also told me that the doctors had managed to control his diarrhoea and that he was ready to be taken home. By the second week of his admission, she had convinced the hospital staff to discharge him.


I was working away from home all this time so I relied on her for information.

The very day he was discharged, I realised she had taken my sick dad to the nearest town to check on some work documents in the bank. That night, dad was overwhelmed and died on the way back to hospital.

During the funeral period, I discovered dad had passed away from HIV-related complications. According to the doctor who revealed this information, my stepmother also had it and had been on ARVs for a whole year. He said that my dad shed tears while taking medication when he found out the truth about her status. I realised he died because of pain, disappointment and hurt. I hate my stepmother. I didn't talk to her throughout the funeral period. Anytime she tries to contact me, I feel hurt and I cry. I regret why I trusted her with my dad’s health. I also regret that I wasn’t there with dad in the hospital.

I feel betrayed because if she had not hidden her status, my dad would still be alive today. If she had told us that it was HIV/AIDS we were dealing with, we would have taken him to hospital sooner than we did. She had her own selfish reasons for not telling us. Were it not for a third party, the doctor, I would not know the truth. She made grieving unbearable. I can’t move on knowing that my dad, an educated and hardworking man, died of HIV-related complications, especially in this era where one can access ARVs.

Kindly help me. How do I deal with this pain? How can I let this hate for my stepmother go?


My sincere condolences for the loss of your father.

Of course, no amount of empathy can replace the pain of losing your father. Your pain carries with it many aspects. You remeMber the joyous times you had with your dad since the passing of your mother and the regrets you have arising from his sickness and demise.


After all, he was your everything. Your stepmother, on the other hand, tried her best to care for your dad. She could be going through her own pain of losing a husband. You could very well be just two women mourning their best friend. My prayer is for both of you to find refuge in knowledge of what this man meant to each of you.

It is important not to forget that the other angle to this is that, the death of your dad also brought with it regret and disappointment which, if not well handled, could prevent you from thinking straight.

First, is the issue of blame. The fact that you are blaming your step mother and yourself for this death is the result of the guilt you feel. You somehow feel like your step mother failed to care for your dad. The game is even personalised by you feeling like you abandoned your dad and left her in the care of your step mother.

There is this feeling that guilt brings that seems to make us feel like the life of the departed was cut short because there is somehow something we did not do.

What more really could you have done that the doctors did not do. I would like you to know that grief makes us experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions.


These emotions range from shock, anger or disbelief. The guilt and blame you feel can disrupt your physical and mental wellbeing if not managed.

So, reading your emotions well will help you steer your feelings and thought patterns in the right direction. For example, tell yourself, “I did all I could do. I did not abandon my father.” In addition, I am glad that, by reaching out, you are desiring to hear another voice of reason.

There is something else that is worth mentioning. The discovery that your dad suffered from HIV—a disease you feel could have been managed if your step mother had made early disclosure seems to have hit you hard. Indeed, medical science has achieved a lot in the management of HIV Aids. But, I believe disclosure of one’s status is a matter left for the individual with the help of professionals. Now, it appears like your dad and stepmother kept this to themselves.

I do believe in miraculous healings. I also believe that God has given special knowledge to doctors who can help us live a fruitful life.

There are moments also when human medicine is unable to solve the problem at hand. If your dad found it difficult to make the disclosure, I feel this is something that will not help you now if you keep blaming yourself.


We possess these weak bodies that susceptible to diseases and all kinds of weakness. Such knowledge helps us live life with open arms. You father lived a full life. He is dead now, but I am sure if he was given a chance to speak out, he would desire that you be happy.

Your peace will be found in reconciling with the fact that, death is bound to come once. However, in most cases, how it may come may remain a mystery.

As I said earlier, it may not be clear to you know why your parents chose to keep this disclosure from you. It may look unfair to put the blame of disclosure fully on your step-mother.

There are many times parents fail to disclose certain information to their children due to the fear of victimization, fear of the unknown, or pride. I guess these are things we will never fully get to understand this side of life.

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