There's no sugarcoating it: hearing terrible news is awful. Authorities, paramedics and hospital workers are well-known for being seasoned in breaking the bad news, but we don't always shine the light on everyday people dropping the mic. Bad news can range from losing a loved one to realizing the bike you reported stolen wasn't actually missing, to begin with. Regardless of how bad the news is, it will always have some weight on our hearts. The following bearers of bad news tell us some of the worst messages they've had to relay to others. But don't worry—they're not all somber; in fact, you might be pleasantly surprised with a few laughs mixed in between tears.
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#1 Grandma's Big Secret
In my grandma's last days, she requested that mum stay with her alone, and it was only then that she revealed the secret she'd been keeping for decades: She revealed that my mum wasn't her biological kid. My grandma confessed that she had bought my mum from a child trafficking ring, which was common in China, because she had tried for many years and still could not get pregnant. My mother cried a lot, not only for the unimaginable pain that her biological parents likely went through in losing a baby, but also for the fact that my grandparents have gone beyond to treat my mum as their little princess.
They literally did treat my mum as their own. They were never abusive and only gave her the very best in life. They even willingly sent my mum to the US for a university education even though they aren't rich by any means.
#2 News of A Missing Person
I had to tell my boyfriend his best friend was the body the authorities found in the river. He had been missing for two days.
#3 Worst Day Of My Life
I had to call my girlfriend's parents at 1 a.m. to tell them there had been a bad accident. Their daughter was en route to the ER and I thought she would be okay. She lost her life on arrival. It was the worst day of my life.
#4 Breaking Up The Family
I had to tell my mom that her husband had been mistreating me for multiple years. I decided I wasn't going back into her house after I told her.
#5 Baring The Bad News
I had to call my brother, sisters, and mother to tell them I found my father lifeless on the floor of his kitchen.
#6 Lost At Sea
I had to tell someone’s family that we would be giving up on searching for their loved ones who were lost at sea.
#7 No One Passes Alone
I was an NYC paramedic and had to walk a guy through his own passing one night. He was crushed by a subway car, and 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 passes 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 until he was gone.
#8 Alone With Grandma
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 passed in her sleep. Not only did I have to deal with being the person who found my grandma deceased by myself, but I then had to call all of my various family members (parents, aunts, brothers) to let them know what happened.
#9 Telling My Wife
I had to tell my wife that our eight-year-old son had lost his life 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.
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#10 Case Closed
I had to tell the parents of a 20-year-old basketball star that his substance use did not account for his unusual thoughts and behaviors that he was. He was in fact, psychotic and likely schizophrenic.
#11 I've Got To Get To My Mom
My brother, who was active army at the time, had to be granted emergency leave for my mother who was passing 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 lost her life 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.
#12 The School Visit
When my grandmother passed, we knew it was coming as she had been ill for a very long time. I was at home with my mom when my aunt called with the news that she was gone. My younger sister was at school so we went to pick her up. When she was called to the office and she saw us there, I think a part of her knew why we came to pick her up, but that didn’t make it easier to tell her.
#13 A Picture For Papa
My son was four when Papa passed. My husband's parents lived behind us so he was used to going back and forth. He forgot one day and walked out to show Papa he had written his letters. He came back with huge tears and sat at the kitchen table, saying he just wanted Papa to see he could write. When he fixed his eyes on me and said, "I'm drawing a picture of my Papa because he's gone. I'm very sad Mommy," I lost it.
#14 Soul Shattering Pain
After my wife woke up from a medically induced coma, I had to tell her our son passed. Her look of soul-shattering pain still bothers me.
#15 Telling Dad He's Dying
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 lost his life two weeks later.
#16 A Tipsy Driver
My dad, who was a cop for 27 years, was working the midnight shift. They got a call about a car accident and they arrived on the scene to find a fatality. Turns out, the guy who lost his life was the law enforcement officer’s son. He was also a close family friend. My dad had to go to his coworker’s house at like, 2 a.m. to tell him his son had been struck and ended by a tipsy driver.
#17 Telling My Girlfriend
I had to tell my girlfriend that her grandmother was gone. Her mom asked me to break the news to her (since she's terrible at that stuff). We had only been together for about a year and I had to leave work to drive over and tell her. She had just come back from visiting her grandmother a few provinces away a few days earlier and the doctors said she would be okay. She was SO close to her grandmother that I knew it would be devastating to her. She cried for a few hours, then I booked her on the next flight home and helped her pack. To this day, it's something I'll never forget doing. On the plus side, we are still together almost seven years later and have a beautiful baby girl. I like to think that the moment brought us closer together.
#18 Telling Grandma We're Still On The Cruise
My grandmother had dementia. Whenever we'd visit her in the nursing home, she would ask us how we got on the "cruise." She was a fancy lady who loved her cruises in her better days. My dad is a total humbug and would correct her, then make her feel miserable at the reality of her being in a home. So one day, my mother interrupted him and said, "The boat docked nearby so we popped in for a visit." I don't think I'd ever seen grandma happier, honestly. That was the script from then on and I'd like to think she felt her last days were a real party as a result.
#19 Our Son Is Gone
I had to tell my spouse and children that my 26-year-old son took his own life.
#20 On A Lighter Note
I had to tell my mom that the bike that I reported stolen to the authorities was under the freaking porch.
#21 A Christmas Nightmare
A large group of our friends had come together for an amazing Christmas party on the 23rd. After we woke up the next morning, my friend Mason and I were the first to find out one friend had not woken up at all, and never would again. We activated a haphazard phone tree and had to tell everyone who was at the party that Elisabeth had passed in her sleep on Christmas Eve. It was shocking, tragic, and WAY too soon. We were 18 or 19 at the time. I still have a hard time on the 23rd of December. Before anyone asks, she likely lost her life of a seizure. It was not related to the party. The only consolation is that she had a really good time with good friends on her last night with us.
#22 Explaining A Breakup To A Four-Year-Old
I had to explain to my four-year-old niece why my long-time girlfriend wasn’t with me anymore. She just didn’t understand and kept asking questions like, “I thought aunty loved you? Why did she leave?” The break up was recent and that conversation hurt man.
#23 Explaining 9/11
A regular of mine almost fell to his end washing windows in a four-story building. He miraculously survived, but broke every bone in his body and cracked his skull. The first responders were firefighters right near Houston St. and Broadway in NYC. If they hadn’t responded, he would have lost his life right there. Fast forward four weeks later: he got out of his coma and was finally able to be taken home by his sister. Barely able to speak, he managed to whisper that he wanted her to pass him by the fire station two blocks down so he could thank his rescuers. His sister had to then explain, with the black smoke still lingering in the air, that the entirety of the 9/11 attacks ended every single first responder that helped him. Sometimes that worn-out older man sitting at the bar day drinking red beverage has a really good story to tell.
#24 I Reported My Friend
I had to tell my best friend in high school that I was the one who reported her dad for hurting her. She had spoken only to me and her pastor in confidence. They pulled her out of class after it was reported and allowed her a friend for comfort. She chose me and as she sat sobbing, speaking of how horribly she hated our pastor and how she would never forgive him.
I looked her in the eyes and told her it was me. I was 16. She surprised me by visiting on a trip home a few years later... I will always remember how she looked when she said, "I'm so sorry we can never be friends again. I look at you and see everything. But you absolutely saved my life." I'm okay with that now, but at the time it tore my heart up.
#25 Time To Say Goodbye
I had to tell my dad, who was in the hospital two weeks away from his own end, that his father had passed. My dad hadn't yet accepted that he himself was dying, though my sister and I could see it. Grandpa had been in hospice for two months, so we all knew that his end was near. In the week between grandpa's passing and his funeral, dad began to accept that he didn't have much time left. Dad made it to grandpa's funeral and saw his extended family for the last time. That was a surreal experience for me, watching him say goodbye.
#26 After An Accident
Not me, but one of my aunts had to tell our family that her husband and kids all lost their lives after they hit a moose in their car. The worst part is that the husband got crushed and the kids might have seen it happen before they eventually passed.
#27 After A House Fire
A mom and her four-year-old daughter were in a house fire. The mom had third-degree burns all over her body. She was put in a medically-induced coma. After extubating the mom a few days later, my roommate (a surgery resident) had to tell her that her daughter was braindead.
#28 On A Sunday
I had to tell my mom that dad was gone. Her husband of 45 years. He wasn't feeling good—he had a bit of a cough one morning, so he didn't go to church with my mom. My mom called me on the way to church to see if could go check on Dad. No problem, right? Old man and I will watch some movies or something. I got to the house and my dad had more than a bit of a cough. It was like full-blown pneumonia.
He asked for some blankets, which I grabbed. He didn't want to watch a show or anything, so I played with my dachshund for a bit and let him run around their massive yard. When I came back in, my dad asked for his breathing treatment (he has COPD, so he had albuterol treatments). I grab the medicine but when I hand it to him, I realized he had blue lips.
I picked him up and told him we were going to the ER. We made it to the front door, but he grabbed the door handle and wouldn't let go. He slumps down and stares at me. I told him I love him. He blurted out "I love... I love... I love..." and that was it. I called an ambulance while doing CPR, but I already knew. Ten years as a paramedic and I had failed my dad. I failed to see the signs before my very eyes.
I called Mom to get home ASAP. She was picking us up a pizza. I begged the paramedics to transport my dad, even though they had every right to call it on the scene. I didn't want mom to see dad like this. My mom got home and I had to tell her. This was the worst moment of my life. I wake up screaming in my sleep often now. It was bad before, and it's been two years now since I failed my dad, but now it's an almost every night event now.
#29 Down To The Last Hours
My daughter passed at 20 years old. My mom was with her for her last hours in hospice. I had to tell her. It was the worst weekend of my life. Ten years later, I still struggle with it. I miss them both every day.
I had to tell my best friend that one of his fraternity brothers ended his life. He was out of school for the semester and I knew informing him wouldn’t be the top priority by anyone in the house, so I called him. It was the most heartbreaking thing to have to do, especially over the phone. I wished I could have been there for him in person. I think it was the only time I’d heard him cry...
#31 It's Not The Sleeping Pills
I had to tell my mom over the phone while she was in the hospital that I just found my dad in bed, gone. She was in so much denial. She tried to convince me that, “Maybe he’s just on his sleeping pills.” I wished it were true, but I already knew he was gone when I tried to move him. He was stiff as a brick. Paramedics came in and confirmed it. My mom was on the phone still, so she heard everything. I never knew heartbreak could have a sound until I heard my mom break down on the phone. I tried to keep my composure but I ended up having to mute the phone call and let some tears out myself. This was almost two years ago.
#32 You Can't Go In Your Room
When I was 13 years old, I'd come home from school and would always be the first one home. I spotted a trail of red leading up the pavement and thought nothing of it until I realized it led into my garden and around the back of the house. I ran inside and found the trail leading upstairs to my sister's bedroom where I found our dog, a four-year-old black labrador. He was clearly had been in a lot of pain.
My neighbor came running behind me and explained that Max had gotten out of the back somehow. He got hit by a car and managed to drag himself home to curl up on my sister's bed. The driver had followed him and tried knocking on our door but no one was home, so he explained what had happened to a neighbor. My neighbor and I cleaned the trails of red from around our house and garden. I had to call my mom and dad to tell them and they came home as quick as they could. My sister came home before then and I had to explain why she couldn't go to her room. She ended up sleeping in my room for a week.
#33 Turn Of Events
I had to tell my parents that my college girlfriend was pregnant during senior year. It was a rough conversation but I had built it up in my head that it was going to be far worse. The follow-up conversation about it all having been faked by her was also very hard.
#34 Breaking The News Of Divorce
I had to tell my son that I wanted to divorce his dad. I barely see him now and he doesn't even consider me his parent anymore. I don't really know how to deal with it. I don't even think I'm supposed to still call him my son, but how do you suddenly stop being a parent to someone you've parented, largely by yourself, for eight years?
#35 Telling My Friends
I had to tell my group that one of our best friends ended his life. It was like our brains couldn’t process the task at hand and short-circuited. Total guru meditation. It took a few hours for it all to sink in and then I cried for days. We all did.
#36 While You Were Gone
While my best friend was away at boot camp, his longtime girlfriend was cheating on him. I had to tell him the night he got home because he was going to propose to her. He didn’t believe me until I told him how she was sneaking guys into her parents' house. He said, “That’s how I always snuck in.”
#37 Explaining Myself
My dad found me right after I drank bleach by accident. I had to explain why my room smelled like bleach, and then he slowly pieced together what was happening while I was in excruciating pain.
#38 Our Daughter's Medical Condition
I had to tell my husband that our five-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with an incurable, terminal, genetic neurodegenerative disorder. Then I had to tell my mother (who we had named her after). She lived alone, 1,000 miles away, so I had one of her closest friends there come to her house a few minutes later.
#39 An Act Of Mistreatment
I had to tell my mom that her yoga instructor, our longtime family friend, and man of peace Sudarhmen, was ended by a religious extremist that came from another state for the sole purpose of ending him. I was only 14 years old at the time and I struggled because I knew how she would react. That sucked.
#40 Grandma Didn't Wake Us Up For School
After my parents split up, my dad moved us in with his mother. She was one of those grandmas who woke up every morning to get my siblings and me up for school because my dad left for work at 4 a.m. and worked 12 hour days. One day, she didn't wake us up. Just as I was coming out of my room, I saw my younger sibling coming out of her room. We just kind of looked at each other, then it clicked. I went in to check on grandma. She was cold. So I called an ambulance and then my dad. That was hard. Because he worked about 30 minutes away (this was the '90s so cell phones weren't that common yet), I had to call all the aunts and uncles too.
#41 Explaining It To A Child
I worked as a pediatric psychology fellow while in graduate school (I was studying for my Ph.D. in clinical psychology). This invoked providing psychological services for all children in the hospital. In one of my very first weeks, I was shadowing a more experienced fellow and we encountered a family whose child, a seven-year-old female, was hospitalized after she was in a car accident with her father.
Sitting with this child, who was in a body brace with lacerations all over, and explaining to her what the end of life was, that her father had lost his life , and having to ask questions to make sure she understood was one of the most disturbing 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.
#42 The Last Ride
I had to tell my girlfriend that her favorite horse from a farm she used to work at was gone.
#43 Caught In A Love Triangle
I had to tell two friends of mine that the girl they were seeing had been cheating on them with each other. She was a friend of my girlfriend, so when I found out that she was stringing both of them along, I had to let them know. I was cheated on before and only found out because someone told me the truth while she was going around my back, so I felt I had to pay that forward. It still didn't make it any easier because I know how hard it is to hear that.
#44 I'm Taking The Baby
When I left my ex and had to tell his family that I was taking the baby. My mother-in-law is weird and we haven’t always got along but she’s always loved me and my child. Telling her that there was a good chance she’d never see her grandbaby again was hard. I could see the heartbreak.
#45 Mom's Not Okay
I had to tell our children that their mother, my wife, would not be recovering from her cancer treatment. There was a lot of crying.