TALES OF COURAGE: Coping with grief after my daughter’s death

Wednesday March 18 2020

Lucy Githuku holding a photo of her late daughter Angel Hope. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI


Lucy Githuku watched her daughter helplessly as she fought for her life, praying all the while and not leaving her side.

Her only child, Angel Hope, was four years nine months old when she died after suffering from neuroblastoma cancer.

“I was a single mother at 25 years [when her child was born], and my daughter brought me peace and so much happiness. When she turned four, I enrolled her at Rasul Academy for her nursery education. During her first and second term in school she was continuously sick,” she says.

Lucy realised her daughter could not control her bladder and while she was sleeping she had to put on diapers. She decided that Angel would only be in school for half a day on every school day.

On September 2012, Angel’s health deteriorated and she fell seriously ill. She developed a swelling on the right side of her abdomen.

“I panicked and rushed her to the Provincial General Hospital in Nakuru where she underwent an abdominal ultrasound to determine the cause of the swelling. The results showed a mass on her right kidney, which was treated as an emergency that saw Angel wheeled to the theatre,” Lucy says.

The doctors realised the tumour had engulfed the entire kidney, and they had to remove it. Samples were taken for further tests and results came back negative for cancer.

Lucy quit her job as a receptionist to take care of her ailing daughter.

In April 2013, when Angel was about to resume her classes, she started ailing again. She had high fevers, continuous vomiting and severe abdominal pains. She was taken back to hospital and was found to have an enlarged liver. Her system had begun to fail and blood transfusion was necessary.


Angel spent two more weeks at Annex Hospital in Nakuru before she was referred to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Eldoret.

Doctors at MTRH ran more tests and diagnosed Angel with stage four neuroblastoma cancer.

“The doctors told me that after the surgery to remove her kidney, the cancer spread to other organs. During the scan at MTRH, only my daughter’s spleen was visible as all other organs were covered by the mass of cells,” Lucy says.

On June 11th as Lucy was changing her daughter’s diapers, she was alarmed by the very dark stool and informed the doctor. Further lab tests showed that Angel had internal bleeding and very low sugar level.

“I knew then I was losing my daughter as she had started turning cold. I was scared and very broken. I could not bring myself to leave her side, and at 1pm she passed on,” Lucy says.

Lucy fell into depression and was also treated for ulcers. She attended counselling sessions to help her cope with her grief, which had taken a toll on her. She frequently visited her daughter’s graveside to plant flowers and spend time there; it was her way of trying to find closure.

“There is no ‘moving on’ or ‘getting over it’. There is no fix and no solution to my heartache,” an emotional Lucy states.

But she says she is working hard to accept that Angel died, because she fears that if she does not she will fall into further depression. In her journey to recovery, Lucy started visiting women and sick children in hospitals to talk to them and share her experiences.

It has been five years since her daughter’s demise. Lucy, a tour consultant and Safaricom dealer, says she gave out most of Angel’s clothes but has still held on to her books as they make her feel her daughter’s presence in her home.

“Losing my daughter was the most painful thing I have ever gone through, but I thank God for the years I shared with Angel.”


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