Three dads walking

In a new book, three dads whose daughters died by suicide write about their sponsored walk to raise awareness about the terrible toll that suicide takes on a family and to stop it happening to others.


How do you cope with the loss of a child – particularly a loss caused by suicide? Such an unbearable loss throws up all sorts of the most difficult emotions, but three dads who have experienced such loss have come together to talk about suicide – in order to save other children and to remember their own.

Their epic walk across England has featured in the news, but now they have written a book about it. Called Three Dads Walking: 300 miles of hope, it recounts their stories and those of the people they met along the way. The book is divided between the three dads’ voices and each section starts with the story of the suicide that occurred in their family. 

Andy and Sophie

It starts with Andy whose daughter Sophie took her life in December 2018 at the age of 29. She had just got a new job and a new flat and in her last call to her dad the day she died she was laughing. The following day she was due to travel to see her mum. It is Andy who first starts the publicity-raising campaign. He decides to do a run for Sophie and publicises this through a contact in the media. The proceeds go to the suicide charity PAPYRUS. Through his son, Andy meets Mike whose daughter Beth has recently died through suicide. He is in touch with Tim, another of the three dads, who lost his daughter Emily. 

The three dads decide to do a sponsored walk between their houses which becomes the Three Dads Walking campaign. Andy recounts the first part of their journey and the support they received along the way –  often from people who had family members who had died from suicide. Andy remarks how he had never imagined how common suicide is, with all its devastating after-effects – it’s the biggest killer of under 35s in the country.

One family group they meet are Angela Allen and her daughter Tash. Both Angela’s daughter and then her husband died through suicide. They set up Bags for Strife to provide suicide-bereaved families with immediate support – links to advice services, sleep spray, lip balm and other products to remind bereaved families to take care of themselves.

Andy talks about his own emotions and what he learned along the way.  He writes about how the three dads checked in with each other regularly that the whole experience was not too overwhelming. He says: “It’s OK to feel sad, guilty, angry, lost, disconnected…as long as you don’t get stuck and begin to dwell on one thing. The understanding that ‘OK’ comes in many forms and accepting that it’s normal for the emotions of grief to overwhelm without warning is a cathartic and liberating insight. It helps you to live – and to carry on living.”

Andy talks about the need to take suicide out of the shadows and talk about it. He says: “We need to SHOUT about this. We are allowing lives to be lost unnecessarily. Something needs to be done.”

Mike and Beth

Mike takes up the journey, first talking about how his 17-year-old daughter Beth took her life during the early part of the Covid lockdown. The shock, anger, disbelief and sheer horror of what happened is clear in how he writes, recounting in detail the days following her death. He talks about how different members of the family reacted differently, of trying not to think about his daughter because he drew him back to the ‘black hole’ of how she died, of the relentless of the days, of sleeplessness and panic and self-questioning.

In walking he finds a reason to keep going. He says: “With every conversation along the way we were learning more, and finding out that those loved ones who were left to grieve believed far more could be done…We need to protect our precious children from their greatest danger: themselves.”

Tim and Emily

Tim takes the final leg of the book. He talks about his daughter Emily, who had been diagnosed at 15 with autism. Over the next years she got a lot of support, and her family began to understand better her sometimes erratic behaviour. Covid, however, hit her hard. She developed a cold and, thinking it was Covid, she attempted suicide. After two days in critical care, her parents were told she could not breathe on her own. Her life support system was switched off. 

Tim talks about all the emotions that followed and how he dealt with the  issue at work.  He sent an email to colleagues titled ‘Tim’s elephant in the room’, telling them what had happened and why they should not avoid him and how he might need their help. He describes their support as ‘superb’. Lots of conversations followed.

The book is a testament to the power of talking, to the need for us to talk about the awful events that many people face. It ends with the walk having raised half a million raised for PAPYRUS’ work on suicide prevention and the dads concluding that they have ‘unfinished business’.  They are particularly indignant about the reply they received from the Department for Education on whether suicide should be talked about in schools.

They write: “We realised we weren’t finished. We had to get out and shout about suicide prevention again. We had to get the government to listen to our concerns and those of many other suicide-bereaved parents we’d spoken to along the way. Our voices had to be heard. All we needed to do was decide what we were going to do next…”

They’re certainly determined and the walk has shown them how desperately important raising more awareness is.

*Three Dads Walking is published by Robinson. Picture credit:

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