Breaking bad news to people is awful. Really – I can’t imagine being a police officer or a doctor and having to tell people that their loved ones are dead or injured. It’s tough stuff.
In this AskReddit articles, people reveal the hardest things they’ve ever had to tell someone.
If you have a story, share it in the comments.
“I worked as a pediatric psychology fellow while in graduate school (PhD clinical psychology). This invoked providing psychological services for all children in the hospital.
One of my very first weeks I was shadowing a more experienced fellow and we encountered a family whose child (7yo F) was hospitalized after she was in a car accident with her father. Her father died in the accident and no one in her family was comfortable directly explaining this to the child. They had used a lot of religious euphemisms about death (he’s watching over you in Heaven, he’s with you in spirit) but this language is not concrete enough for a young child who doesn’t really understand death.
Sitting with this child (body brace, lacerations all over, very flat affect) and explaining to her what death was, that her father had died, and having to ask questions to make sure she understood was one of the most traumatizing experiences of my graduate training. I can still vividly imagine her face while we were telling her and the tears silently rolling down her face.”
2. The body
“I had to tell my boyfriend his best friend was the body found in the river after he had been missing for two days.”
3. “Worst day of my life”
“Had to call my girlfriend’s parents at 1am to tell them there was a bad accident, that their daughter was enroute to ER and I thought she would be Ok. She died on arrival. Worst day of my life.”
“Had to call my brother, sisters, and mother when I found my father dead.
(After calling 911 and my wife.)”
“Telling someone’s family that we are giving up on searching for their loved ones who are lost at sea.”
“To tell my mom her husband had been molesting me for multiple years and that I wasn’t going back into her house.”
7. You have to make peace
“When I was 22 my parents asked me to come home and watch my grandma, who had dementia and needed a caregiver, while they went to visit my brother who was living out of the country. Two days in, my grandma died in her sleep.
Not only did I have to deal with being the person who found my grandma dead by myself, but I then had to call all of my various family members, (parents, aunts, brothers) to let them know what happened.
EDIT: I wanted to thank everyone for your kind words and condolences. It’s been 10 years since my grandma died so this is not something I’m grieving over anymore.
I will say to the many people who have mentioned being in similar situations, talk to your family, a friend, or someone you trust about any and all feelings you have about an experience like this. For way too many years (yes, years) I blamed myself for my grandma’s death and carried it around like a shameful secret.
It wasn’t until I felt brave enough to tell my mom how I felt that she provided the appropriate perspective and support I needed to finally move on and make peace with that life experience.”
8. The messenger
“I had to call my friend’s girlfriend to let her know he’d been killed in an accident…and then share that news with his best friend on a pursuant call.”
9. Nothing prepares you
“Definitely telling my grandmother that her daughter (my mother) had just died. Nothing quite prepares you for telling someone about a death.”
10. The bearer of bad news
“I had to tell my wife that our 8 year old son had died in the night. He was on hospice and it was expected but that was still hard. Then I had to phone my older children and tell them. Thursday will mark 2 years.
Professionally, I had to tell the parents of a 20 year old basketball star that his drug use did not account for his unusual thoughts and behaviors that he was, in fact, psychotic and likely schizophrenic.”
“My brother, who was active military at the time, had to be granted emergency leave for my mother who was on her deathbed after a short but destructive battle with cancer. They took more than 24 hours to sign one name on that document to release him, even knowing the circumstances.
When he became noticeably upset that they were taking their time with it they pulled him aside and threatened to make him undergo a psych evaluation for being (understandably) angry.
She died while he was on his flight home. I had to tell him over the phone that he missed the passing of our mom and he wouldn’t ever be able to say goodbye.
That was rough.”
“Telling my sister that our Dad’s heart attack was indeed fatal.”
“Telling my four year old his papa had died.”
14. Two weeks later
“When I told my dad that he was in the early stage of dying and was moving to hospice care. He told me, “Oh good” because he was so tired of being sick with Parkinson’s. He died 2 weeks later.”
15. That is intense
“I’ve told the story before but I was a NYC paramedic and had to walk a guy through his own death one night. He was crushed and folded by a subway car, as soon as we moved the subway car we knew he would bleed out. He had no family to call (I suspect it had something to do with his sexuality) and I’m a huge believer that no one dies alone.
I had FDNY and the MTA set up a spot so I could crawl under the car next to him and we could talk as the process happened. I gave him plenty of morphine and he took my hand as the lift was started. I didn’t let go till I pronounced him.
P.S. Tommy, I stayed till we had to close the doors man. I promised I would. My wife lights that candle for you every anniversary too, no one will ever forget you as long as I have a say.”