It's never fun being the bearer of bad news, but sometimes it has to be done. There comes a time in everyone's life where they'll find themselves in that very situation, and when they do, they have to make the most of it.
The people in the following stories found themselves having to break some hard news to a friend, loved one, or acquaintance, and none of them were pretty. All posts have been edited for clarity.
“The hardest thing I’ve ever done was not telling my brother he had brain cancer but instead telling him to focus on getting better and he would come live with my parents soon.
He lost his short term memory two days after they found the tumor. Had brain surgery. We didn’t want him to suffer telling over and over as he would forget. When he was in hospice one day he was contorted with a horror movie face screaming. I went and whispered, ‘Mom is on her way and she loves you.’ He immediately relaxed and was peaceful again.
When he died, my parents took his ashes and kept them at home for months. My mom wanted to keep her promise that he would come live with them.
I’m still pretty broken over it.”
“They’re Stuck With Us Now”
“I took it upon myself to inform our circle of friends fairly early in the morning that our good friend had decided to take his life the night before – just a few days before Christmas. I was his best friend and his parents obviously didn’t have any ways of contacting most of the group. His mom actually ended up calling my wife to break the news.
So it was basically a few hours of calling, breaking the news, having a good cry, composing myself, making the next call.
As terrible as that was, I still can’t even imagine what his parents had to go through. Take my sorrow and pain and multiply that by infinity, I suppose.
Four years later, the crew still organizes a dinner with his parents every three months or so. They may have lost a son, but they inherited 10 children and a few grandchildren.
They’re stuck with us now.”
Someone Had To Be The Bearer Of Bad News
“I told my grandfather that the surgery he was scheduled to have in less than two hours, which was necessary to save his life, was going to leave him unable to take anything by mouth ever again – even water; and leave him hooked to an IV pretty much permanently. Being a fiercely independent person, he of course refused to move forward with the surgery (which he had previously agreed to, not knowing this). Then I had to inform my family that I had told him the truth, against their wishes, and that he had decided against the surgery.
My grandfather had a tremendous amount of integrity and love for his family. He was a WWII veteran who never once backed down from a challenge or took the easy path over the right one. His presence in my life was a gift unlike any other. I still miss him every single day.
My grandfather was suffering repeated bouts of aspiration pneumonia because his stomach didn’t properly hold its contents. Every time he reclined, he was inhaling stomach contents. He was medicated very heavily in the weeks before this surgery and it was explained to him as the insertion of a port for ‘venous nutrition.’ He was either never told that the surgery meant he would never take food/water by mouth again or he was too sedated to have understood it if was explained. I don’t know.
I was asked as medical power of attorney, to sign off on the surgery, and when I read the paperwork, I immediately knew he would never have agreed to it. The worst part was he apologized to me over and over, he knew I would have to tell the family and that they would be upset, and that his death would be devastating for us. He was right. But watching him live as an invalid would have been worse in a way. He got a dignified death -on his own terms, and that’s what we all deserve.
When I told him, he cried and apologized to me over and over. It was heartbreaking. I knew that he would have done the same for me though. It was the worst day of my life. I did what was right, even though it meant he would leave us within weeks, and I don’t regret it, but man. I still cry when I think about it.”
Try Explaining This
“My dad came into my room by complete chance literal seconds after I downed a glass of bleach when I was 14. I’d been trying to kill myself and when he smelled it and saw me quietly sobbing, he ran over, blubbering and begging me to tell him what happened.
I had to explain to my dad, my throat in agony and my heart hurting more, that I’d just drank bleach. I essentially had to tell my dad that I, his oldest child, barely into my teen years, was dying.
I was rushed to hospital. After a week in hospital, I spent three months in a psych ward. I’d been out of school for months anyways due to mental illness and had just completed 10 weeks in a day program, and it wasn’t my first attempt, so he managed to deal much more calmly than if it’d happened out of the blue.”
He’ll Never Forget His Son’s Reaction
“I was asked to help coach a competitive traveling baseball team of 10-year-old boys (my son included).
We had a try-out and would have to cut about seven boys. I saw right away that my son would not be on the team unless I was the coach. We had two days of try-outs and after the first day my son got in the truck and tells me that it was the most fun he had ever had playing baseball and he couldn’t wait to spend the summer hanging out with his friends and me.
I had to tell my son right then and there, with all the hope and excitement in his eyes that he was not good enough to play on the team. It was the right thing to do but that didn’t make me or him feel any better. Cutting your own kid from the team you are supposed to coach makes you feel like a prick. I resigned as coach and spent that summer practicing (his request) every day after work. The next year he made the team, was selected as an All-Star of the league and led his team in batting. I’ll never forget that day in my truck as long as I live.”
The Worst Call A Cop Can Make
“In the course of my job (police) – I have had to deliver more death messages that I could count. It never gets any easier.
The worst was an elderly woman who had died overnight. From the moment I arrived at the address, the phone was constantly ringing….after an hour I had to answer (even though procedure is not to) as it obviously a loved one trying to get in contact.
I had to break the news over the phone to her daughter that she had died. She was hundreds of miles away….it was heartbreaking. She broke down and was sobbing. I told her I was with her Mum and would look after her. I told her to call me back when she was ready.
Her daughter (the granddaughter) called me back about 30 minutes later. I explained what would happen and that they could contact me at anytime.
I understand they came into the station a few days later. I wasn’t on duty so I missed them. I wish I could have met them to pass condolences and just explain that I found her peacefully.
As all jobs – you get ups and downs. This was a down.”
About Your Cats
“When I was a kid, my dad was dating the sweetest woman in the world named Teresa. I adored her. She made a point of saying she wanted my dad to marry her so that she could be my stepmom. She was a very bright, smiling, vibrant spark in what was at the time, my very lonely childhood. It was simply impossible for anyone to be around her without being happy.
She lived next door to my aunt, uncle and cousins. I’d hang out with them during the day in the summers while my dad was at work, and I’d walk over to check on her house and pets once a day while she was at work too. She had two elderly calico cats, mom and daughter, that were her whole world and very large new rescue dog who stayed in the backyard.
One day around lunch I went to check on all the animals, and found that her new big rescue dog had pushed open the back door’s latch somehow, let himself in, and had spent a good portion of the morning using her cats as living chew toys. The oldest cat was in the final stages of dying, covered in dog saliva, its eyes both punctured out. The cat’s daughter, which was the other old cat, was kind of aimlessly standing there, clearly traumatized, confused and in horrible shape, also covered in dog saliva and dying.
My 13-year-old self had only about four minutes to take it all in before I heard a car pull up in the driveway. Teresa was home early. I was so shocked by it all I couldn’t muster any emotional reaction. I ushered the big dog outside, stepped out of the front of the house and pulled the door shut behind me. Teresa’s mom had just died a couple weeks before this–the only woman in the world who rivaled Teresa’s kindness, and Teresa had come home to find her mom in bed after her heart attack. So I tried my best to muster up anything that might prepare us both.
Teresa walked up and I said, ‘Teresa… I… something happened while you were gone…don’t go inside yet.’ (I don’t know what I had wanted to do. Just move the cats out of her immediate view I guess, and go get my cousins. I was stalling for time, for anything else to happen) I remember my voice being perfectly flat, and the look on my face must have been a terrible one.
‘Your cats… they…the dog got in and-‘
I spent the next few seconds grasping for ways to tell her that the rest of her world was just destroyed.
She pushed past me, of course. Everything that followed is exactly what you would expect to feel if you came home to find your own beloved pets slowly dying. The state of her, and her cats bodies misshapen under their fur, will be seared into my memory forever. We both lost precious things that day. For the years following that I knew her, she was never quite the same after that.
Thankfully, if I briefly think about her these days, it’s with a detached numbness. The mind is good at sterilizing memories until they become just an unfelt series of events. But unexpectedly seeing any severe head gore in shows or movies makes me think of her and her cats for days in sickening detail before I can wrestle that memory and those images back in their box.”
They Couldn’t Be Friends With A Predator Like That
“I had to confront a close friend of our group about his child smut conviction. He was a business owner and, while googling his business, his name popped up on an offender registry. He did photography so, at first, we assumed it might have been something innocuous. Because he was such a good friend of ours, I decided to go to our county clerk’s office to look up the conviction before I confronted him in case it was something minor. Yeah, not so much.
I went to his house to talk to him about it and allow him to explain his side, but he refused to answer the door. Ended up talking to him on the phone. He got angry and said that real friends wouldn’t ‘question’ his integrity. I had to explain that, because of his evasive and combative stance, we could no longer associate with him. He basically lost all of his friends in the span of 24 hours.
The charging and sentencing documents referenced the possession of dozens of images of children under the age of 13 and also mentioned how he maintained multiple online personas with various user groups which he used to collect the images. Also, the whole thing happened less than a year prior and none of us knew anything about it. Given the seriousness of the crime (he plead out for a suspended sentence and probation), I found all of this information to be quite concerning and it was the primary factor in my decision.
Even with this information, however, I still wanted to hear his side of it. We were all quite close and I knew he struggled with other things like his gender identity, so I was ready to listen as a friend. Also, most of us were young adults in our 20s and 30s and several couples in our circle were starting to have families. You couldn’t help but wonder how that was going to unfold at gatherings. Would we ever feel comfortable with him being around our kids? That was a legitimate concern we all shared.
It was he who ultimately initiated the break and closed himself off from all of us. He got incredibly defensive and angry when we spoke on the phone and he told me that, just by bringing it up, I showed I wasn’t a ‘true’ friends. I tried to make him understand that we were concerned by these revelations and that we needed to hear his side of things. I mean, all I knew at the time was what I read in the charging documents and it painted a pretty terrible picture. He said he didn’t have to explain himself and hung up. I called him back and explained that he was leaving me with no options. If he wouldn’t talk to me about something so serious then I could no longer continue our friendship. That was the last time we ever spoke.”
This Love Triangle Had To End
“I had to tell two friends of mine that the girl they were seeing was 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 while each of them thought the relationship was exclusive, I had to let them know.
I was cheated on before and only found out because someone was looking out for and told me the truth while she was going around my back, so I felt I had to pay that forward. Still didn’t make it any easier because I know how hard it is to hear that.”
Leaving The Cult
“I told the leaders of the cult my family had been in for 30 years that my brother and I were leaving.
Yeah, it didn’t go well. One of them tried to cast a demon out of me and they had our parents convinced we were going to burn. They and their kids (whom we had considered friends) spent hours at our house making all kinds of ridiculous accusations about me to my brother to try to turn us against each other (fortunately it backfired). It was late and we just wanted to sleep at that point. They wouldn’t leave until we had them convinced that we would stay.
Brother was actually considering it, but when I told him I was leaving with or without him by the week’s end to go live with our cousin in another state, he shook off their manipulation and agreed to come with me. We left two days later. A year after that, our parents got out as well. Things are much better now.”
Dad, You’re A Prick
“I had to tell my step-father that he is a complete prick once.
It was like 15 years ago, we didn’t get on back then. In short, I was a lazy teen and he was a guy who worked everyday of his life since he was like 12 years old. He would often come back from evenings out drinking, tanked up, and start waffling on about how he wasn’t my real dad and all that, when at the end of the day, I really did not care – I wasn’t expecting him to be my father, I just wanted him to take care of my mother. That and I do see my real dad, who at the time, would say, ‘Ah, don’t listen to that twit,’ etc. So being a teen I essentially doubled down on being a bit of a prick in retaliation at times.
We had a huge blowout one night and I lost my mind over another night of being told something about him not being my real dad because he was wasted. We had some words and I flat out told him I didn’t like him on a personal level, and that he was a major prick. He didn’t take it very well at the time, and it killed me because I knew that my mum had heard everything and was probably very upset about it.
In hindsight, it cleared the air and put all the cards on the table between us both. I later moved out got a full time job, and since then have married/have my own kid, so can see where he was coming from at times. I mean he was a prick, even he admits that, but I openly hold my hands up for being a lazy grumpy teenager who gave him a hard time as well). He did some self reflecting as well; he quit smoking and drinking, and found religion (it’s not for me, but it’s done him wonders I think). He’s like the nicest guy in the world and we’ve both spoken about the above and apologized to each other.
We now get on really, really well, and while I do speak to my biological father, my step dad kept me on the straight/narrow the entire time since I met him, so despite him being rude, it was all in a ‘tough love’ sort of way, which I now appreciate.
We’ve both also spoken with my mother about it, and she’s very happy now we get on so well also.
So it ends well, but it was a tough time at one point.”
“My Mouth Wouldn’t Let Me Speak”
“I was 14 at the time and I had gotten taken away from my dad by the state so he legally wasn’t allowed to speak to me unless there was supervision. He was on his death bed in Iowa and I had just gotten adopted in Nebraska. I was still able to speak to him but he couldn’t respond. Unless they go through the same thing, no one will ever understand how much it hurts to pour your heart out into your own dad at such a young age, knowing you can’t even get an ‘I love you’ or a goodbye. I had five mental breakdowns on the phone with him.
My mouth wouldn’t let me speak, it all came out as like a painful wheeze. There’s so much I tried to say but my mouth just stopped me. I loved him so much. I have two younger siblings, neither one of them are the same kid anymore. We all have depression. Sometimes, I put them in a group call just so we can all cry together. We are all in this place together and it hurts so much to even talk about it. These past two years have been the hardest ones of our lives.”
There’s No Easy Way To Say This
“I told the mother of my 2-year-old child that I was kicking her out of my home, knowing she would take my son and I couldn’t do anything about. I nearly drank myself to death that night after all the screaming and crying was done and her dad picked her up. She refused to accept the terms of living with me and my family, was thoroughly unhygienic, and wanted to me drop out of school so she didn’t have take care our son all day on the days I had class. I had enough of trying to vouch to our landlords for her and she didn’t respect me or what I was trying to accomplish, so I kicked her out. I didn’t see my son for months even though I made it clear I would still care for him and loved him very much. Hardest period of my life so far, and I worry about hurting myself (or worse) constantly. I just try to be strong for him, I just hope that’s enough.”