The 20 Most Heartbreaking ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Deaths, Ranked by How Much You’ll Cry
No one is safe from Grey’s Anatomy’s emotional wrecking ball. Almost every hardcore fan has been devastated by the loss of a beloved character after all these seasons. But which Grey’s Anatomy character death is the most heartbreaking? Obviously, this is subjective, but it’s difficult to argue with this ranking.
Because Grey’s Anatomy is set in a hospital, the characters are forced to deal with life-or-death situations on a regular basis. However, this show raises the stakes even higher by exposing the main doctors to everything from a plane crash to a hospital shooting, so you never know when a heartbreaking goodbye is on the way.
Shonda Rhimes, the show’s creator, was never afraid to kill off a character, and over the course of the show’s 300 episodes, there have been countless heartbreaking deaths that have left viewers reeling. Some were major characters who had been known and loved by audiences for seasons, while others were patients with brief but significant arcs. They all hurt like a b*tch, regardless.
Meredith Grey put it this way: “It is said that death is the most difficult for the living. It’s difficult to say goodbye. It’s not always possible. You never truly get over the loss.” Here are the 20 deaths from Grey’s Anatomy that prove this quote to be true:
Grey, Thatcher (Season 15, Episode 11)
To be honest, I was mostly saddened by Thatcher’s death because of Meredith. It was difficult for Mere to watch her estranged father die of leukemia before they’d had a chance to make peace, especially given how much she’d lost over the course of the program.
2.Doc the Canine (Season 2, Episode 27)
Doc has achieved the distinction of being the only non-human on this list. During the first few seasons, Buddy brought Mere, Derek, and Addison together, and saying goodbye to a lovely pet is never easy.
Ellis Grey is number three (Season 3, Episode 17)
Despite the fact that Meredith and Ellis had a very tumultuous mother-daughter relationship, it was nonetheless heartbreaking to see Mere lose the only mom she’d ever known (and to see Dr. Richard Webber lose a former lover). But Ellis’ impact on the program has lingered in unexpected ways: she’s appeared in Meredith’s nightmares since then, and Mere named her younger daughter after her.
4.Harold O’Malley is a politician in the United States (Season 3, Episode 12)
Harold was a minor character, but it was his friendship with Dr. George O’Malley, a fan favorite, that made his sudden death from organ failure so devastating. Who wasn’t moved to tears when George urged his father to fight even though he was on life support?
Craig Thomas, No. 5 (Season 9, Episode 5)
Cristina Yang struggled to cope after surviving that horrible plane crash at the end of Season 8, and her mentor Craig Thomas was instrumental in her recovery. Then, in a particularly cruel twist of fate, she lost him as well when he suffered a heart attack while operating.
Dylan Young, No. 6 (Season 3, Episode 17)
Your death must be tragic if you’re the only character Rhimes has ever regretted killing off. Dylan began as a minor character who aided Meredith during the Grey Sloan bomb scare in Season 2 and then detonated just as the situation looked to be resolved. He later appeared to her just as she was about to die, making his sacrifice all the more poignant.
Bonnie is number seven (Season 2, Episode 6)
There have been so many Grey’s Anatomy patients over the years that it’s easy to forget about the majority of them, but Bonnie isn’t one of them. Even though she knew she was going to die after being impaled during a train accident, fans fell in love with the character’s gentle nature.
Elena Bailey (number 8) (Season 17, Episode 3)
Miranda Bailey has become one of Grey’s Anatomy’s most recognizable characters, making her farewell to her mother all the more painful. Bailey’s elderly mother died of COVID in Season 17, and it was too much to witness Bailey serenade her with “My Girl” in her last moments.
Diana Pierce (nine) (Season 13, Episode 18)
Maggie Pierce, Meredith’s half-sister, has been navigating her identity and role at Grey Sloan for a long time, but losing her adoptive mother Diana was particularly traumatic. Maggie originally refused to let her mother go, pursuing countless medical therapies and, eventually, painted her mother’s nails one last time before she died.
Adele Weber is number ten on the list (Season 9, Episode 10)
Adele died off-camera, but it didn’t make her death any less heartbreaking. Webber’s lifelong wife had recently undergone successful brain surgery to treat her Alzheimer’s disease, but she died of a heart attack just as she was beginning to feel better. One of the most poignant scenes in the series is when they have one last fantasy dance in Webber’s imagination.
Samuel Norbert Avery (#11) (Season 11, Episode 11)
A baby’s death is particularly heartbreaking, so seeing Jackson and April lose their newborn son Samuel was excruciating on a whole new level. After realizing that their son’s bones were fracturing in the womb, the couple was forced to induce labor at 24 weeks and only got to cuddle him briefly before saying their goodbyes.
Reed Adamson (#12) (Season 6, Episode 23)
The hospital shooting was one of Grey’s Anatomy’s most harrowing stories, and it resulted in some heartbreaking fatalities. Dr. Reed Adamson was one of them, and he was murdered unintentionally when the gunfire began.
Charles Percy is the thirteenth author in the Percy Jackson series (Season 12, Episode 11)
Charles Percy was another victim of the hospital shooting, and for a brief while, it appeared that he would survive. As she performed emergency surgery on him in an elevator, he requested Bailey to tell Reed he loved her, but he died from his wounds.
Henry Burton (#14) (Season 8, Episode 10)
Some of the show’s most beloved characters began as random patients before evolving into personalities who will live in the hearts of fans for the rest of their lives. Henry Burton, who moved from being an uninsured patient to Teddy Altman’s adored husband, was one of those personalities. After witnessing their marriage, which began as a simple convenience, blossom into a lovely romance, seeing her cry over his body after he bled out was heartbreaking.
Andrew DeLuca (#15) (Season 17, Episode 7)
One of the most difficult aspects of DeLuca’s death was how sudden it came. When he challenged a human trafficker at a local train station, the fan favorite was stabbed, and Teddy and Owen were unable to cure his injuries before he died.
Dennis Duquette (#16) (Season 2, Episode 27)
The love story of Izzy Stevens and Denny Duquette had the potential to be as famous as Meredith and Derek’s. Denny later died of a stroke, despite Izzy cutting Denny’s L-Vad lines and breaking the law in an attempt to rescue him. In Season 3, it was sad to watch Izzy suffer with her lost love and hospital suspension, but he did appear to her and Mere in visions later on.
George O’Malley (#17) (Season 5, Episode 24)
Will Grey’s Anatomy ever top the dramatic twist in which the anonymous bus victim was revealed to be the beloved Dr. George O’Malley? I’ll never forget George drawing “007” on Mere’s hand so he could say farewell as himself.
Mark Sloan, age 18 (Season 9, Episode 2)
McSteamy’s death was torturous, especially given how long it took. Mark appeared to be OK months after losing Lexie and going into a coma as a result of the plane tragedy. In an emotional opening to Season 9, he soon became unconscious, causing his colleagues doctors to switch off his life support.
Lexie Grey (19.) (Season 8, Episode 24)
Lexie’s death was perhaps even more tragic than Mark’s because she was doomed from the moment she was trapped beneath plane shrapnel during the crash. It was doubly difficult to watch her go after she and Meredith had finally built a close relationship and she and Mark had become a happy marriage.
Derek Shepherd (no. 20)
How could I leave out McDreamy? The swoon-inducing doctor had an epic affair with Meredith, which only added to the agony of his death, which could have been avoided. Derek was hit by a car and died of brain injuries before a physician could save him after stopping to help victims of a car accident in Season 11.
Grey’s Anatomy will never be the same without Derek, but the dream beach sequences from Season 17 have given viewers the MerDer closure they’ve been waiting for.