11 of the most heartbreaking moments on 'Grey's Anatomy'

ABCViewers of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ know how sad the show can get.
  • Fans of the long-running medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” know how heartbreaking the show can be.
  • Many of the show’s most tragic moments include major deaths and difficult goodbyes.
  • Some of the saddest “Grey’s” moments involve multiple-episode arcs.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

“Grey’s Anatomy” originally started as a fun medical drama but it wasn’t long before the series became known for its tragic deaths and heartbreaking twists and turns.

Now in its 15th season, the longest-running prime-time medical drama hasn’t slowed down one bit.

Here are a few of the most heartbreaking moments on “Grey’s Anatomy.”


Warning: Major “Grey’s Anatomy” spoilers ahead.


When Izzie Stevens didn’t get to Denny Duquette in time.

ABCTheir relationship was a whirlwind.

On season two, episode 27, it was the night of the hospital prom and Izzie Stevens wanted to change her dress a few times to impress Denny Duquette, the patient she was in love with.

But Denny never got to see her gown because he suddenly died of a post-surgery complication. When Izzie curled up next Denny just after he’d died, it was one of the most saddening scenes on the series.


When Preston Burke left Cristina Yang at the altar.

ABCMeredith comforted Cristina.

On episode three of season five, Cristina Yang was absolutely devastated to find that Preston Burke was not going to their wedding because he’d decided to leave her at the altar.

Cristina, a character who rarely showed her emotions, broke down as Meredith comforted her and helped her take off her wedding gown.

Read More: 10 of the best episodes of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ ever


When George O’Malley died.

ABCThe moment everyone realised John Doe was George O’Malley was shocking.

On episode one of season six, when a greatly injured John Doe entered the hospital because he’d jumped in front of a bus to save someone, the doctors had no idea who they were operating on.

But Meredith soon realised the patient was George O’Malley, their beloved colleague who’d recently left to become a trauma surgeon in the army. He was so injured that he had to write out “007” (part of an inside joke) on a notepad so he could identify himself to Meredith.

In one of the most heart-wrenching moments of the series, O’Malley didn’t survive and his friends had to say goodbye to him.


When there was an active shooter at the hospital and many lives were lost and changed forever.

ABCThe entire episode was chilling.

The entire season-six “Sanctuary” episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” is filled with suspense and heartbreak.

On the episode, Dr. Reed Adamson and Dr. Charles Percy are both killed. Derek Shepherd, Owen Hunt, Alex Karev, and many others are shot. Cristina got held at gunpoint as she performed surgery and Miranda Bailey narrowly avoided getting shot by telling a lie.

And, in another harrowing moment, Meredith experienced a miscarriage and continued to perform surgery on Owen Hunt as it was happening.


When Teddy Altman’s husband Henry Burton died and she went to see him one last time.

ABCTeddy and Henry’s marriage was brief but filled with love.

Teddy Altman married the patient Henry Burton (played by Scott Foley) because he needed surgery but didn’t have insurance. And although the marriage started off as a bit of a shady deal, the two ended up falling in love.

On the season eight episode “Suddenly,Cristina operated on Henry without knowing his true identity. Unfortunately, he didn’t survive the surgery.

Read More: 17 of the most memorable ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ couples, ranked


When Mark Sloan said goodbye to Lexie Grey.

ABCLexie Grey didn’t make it.

Mark Sloan was by his partner Lexie Grey’s side during the horrific plane crash on season eight, episode 24.

It was tough to watch Lexie, one of the most cheerful characters on the show, tragically and slowly die as Mark begged her to stay alive.


When Mark Sloan died just a few episodes later during season nine.

ABCMark Sloan died during season nine.

Mark was taken off of life support after suffering injuries from the plane crash that killed Lexie. He and Lexie’s death go hand-in-hand as what could be one of the saddest last goodbyes in “Grey’s” history.

Per his prior instructions, Mark was taken off of life support a few days after his health had declined. And Callie Torres, Derek, Jackson Avery, and others said a teary farewell to their beloved colleague.

Read More: Here’s what all the ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ actors who left the show are up to now


When Adele Webber died and Richard Webber told Meredith during Bailey’s wedding.

ABCIt was hard to watch Richard Webber try to stay composed during Dr. Bailey’s wedding.

Miranda Bailey postponed her own wedding to be able to operate on Adele Webber, Richard Webber’s wife. So when Adele unexpectedly died during Dr. Bailey’s wedding, Richard and Meredith opted not to tell Bailey so that she could enjoy her special day.

On season nine, episode 10, viewers felt a range of emotions as Richard and Meredith stood in the corner of the wedding as they cried about the loss of Adele but tried to stay composed for Bailey’s sake.


When Meredith and Cristina said goodbye.

ABCThey were such close friends for so long.

Cristina and Meredith were each other’s person and they stuck together through many ups and downs. So when Cristina finally left Seattle to run her own prestigious clinic, she and Meredith had to say goodbye.

Seeing the geographical split of what’s likely the strongest, longest friendship on “Grey’s Anatomy” was not easy to watch.


When April and Jackson’s baby Samuel died.

ABCSamuel didn’t live for very long.

During season 11, viewers couldn’t wait to watch April Kepner and Jackson finally welcome their son into the world. But their son, Samuel, was diagnosed with a disease that meant that he would only live a few minutes after birth.

This moment really pushed the limits of April’s devout faith and watching these two say goodbye to their first child was heartbreaking.


When Derek Shepherd died.

ABCMeredith and Derek had been together for years.

During season 11, Derek was doing the right thing by helping to save a family that was in a car accident. But while he was helping, he got hurt and ended up in the hospital with injuries he could not recover from.

Watching Meredith say goodbye to her husband, the father of her children, and her love interest from the very beginning of the show was easily one of the saddest moments of the entire series.

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