With more than ten years under its belt, The Walking Dead was a staple in primetime television ever since it premiered back in 2010. However, a post-apocalyptic world is nothing without heartbreaks and death, and The Walking Dead does a fabulous job of putting those both together.
Throughout eleven seasons, the series delivered some of the most gut-punching deaths fans could imagine. With that in mind, these are the most heartbreaking deaths in The Walking Dead. And of course, spoiler alert for all eleven seasons of The Walking Dead.
20. Leah (Season 11)
Okay, so hear me out. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the Reapers storyline on The Walking Dead, and I didn’t really like Leah that much, it was heartbreaking for a different reason – Daryl.
It’s funny, because Daryl didn’t even really have that much of a reaction to Leah’s death, but I think that was because he literally couldn’t. He didn’t want to kill Leah. He had wanted her to run away after their big battle, especially as a former lover of Daryl’s, but she ended up losing herself to the wrong side – and Daryl had to stop her from killing Maggie.
It sucks, because I do think she would have been a great addition to the story had they fleshed out her character more, but I guess that’s just what we have to deal with.
19. Noah (Season 5)
Noah was one of those deaths that just happened out of nowhere. I remember when we first met Noah with Beth, I thought he was going to end up being a huge character. And then a few episodes after both Beth and Tyreese were killed, he was taken out by a horde of walkers while trying to escape.
I really feel like his character could have been so great, and I was so sad to see him go. And now I wonder what he might have done if he just survived a few more seasons.
18. Sophia (Season 2)
I might get some flack for placing her so low on the list, but I feel like ever since Season 2 of The Walking Dead, there have been so many more deaths other than Sophia that have hurt.
Even so, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still heartbreaking to watch. The group had been searching for Sophia for so long, who had gone missing in the woods earlier on in the season, only for her to stumble out of the barn as a walker. Yes, even children could die on The Walking Dead. And that was a realization everyone needed to know. It ended up making Carol’s character better, but it was still so bad.
17. Siddiq (Season 10)
Siddiq’s death on The Walking Dead was so sudden that it was almost hard to even react at first when he was killed by Dante from the Whisperers. It was like he hadn’t mattered at all.
But the implications of what it meant for the community as a whole not to have a doctor or someone there to take care of them felt horrible, and of course Rosita lost the father of her child. It sucked all around.
16. Alden (Season 11)
I never thought I would really care about Alden that much. Sure, he was one of the first Saviors to defect away from Negan (even if he’s one of the best characters on Negan), but I never thought he would play a big role in the show.
The later Seasons come around and he’s one of the main leaders of Hilltop, and then he ends up getting taken out by the Reaper, who broke both his legs and slit his throat. I genuinely started to cry a ridiculous amount for someone I never realized I cared so much about.
15. Sasha (Season 7)
I always had a feeling ever since Abraham had been offed earlier on in Season 7 of The Walking Dead that Sasha would end up hurting herself. But willingly ending her life to try and kill Negan when she came off that coffin as a walker after taking a pill she had snuck in? Jeez, it was horrible to see. I felt so sad for her.
At least she is with her family now, but still. Brutal. I’m still wondering if those flashbacks she had were real or not.
14. Jesus (Season 9)
The Whisperers seemed to pop up out of nowhere as the villain of The Walking Dead and just nerfed Jesus right away, even though he seemed to be one of the most capable fighters.
But the aftermath was the heartbreaking feeling that hurt the most. Seeing Aaron visibly upset over Jesus being gone, watching Tara lose her friend just like that. The people of the Hilltop seeing him buried when they truly thought they were safe. Tears are threatening to fall as I think about it.
13. Merle (Season 3)
Merle was a complicated story from beginning to finish on The Walking Dead, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that he gave his life fighting the Governor back in Season 3 because he could see how much Daryl had changed because of the group. He didn’t want the Governor to get away with what he was planning.
What made it even worse was when Daryl went looking for Merle and had to literally stab his now walker-turned brother in the head to end his suffering. Seeing Daryl cry will make anyone cry. While I don’t think we’ll ever see Rooker as Merle again (considering the actor has shared blunt thoughts on returning), we can always appreciate the time we had with him.
12. Lizzie And Mika (Season 4)
This was more of a mix of shocking and heartbreaking on The Walking Dead, and certainly one of the most Walking Dead controversial scenes. It was heartbreaking to see Mika, the little girl who was completely innocent in everything, and her neck was brutally slit by her sister after she said it wasn’t right to play with walkers. And then it was shocking because Lizzie was clearly troubled and needed help, but Carol could not help her, nor Tyreese.
Both of them knew Judith would be in danger being around the girl after the prison fell, so Carol made the tough decision to kill Lizzie. “Look at the flowers” is still one of the most heartbreaking lines of the series, just because of the implications that followed.
11. Lori (Season 3)
Alright, I despised Lori on The Walking Dead. There was something about her that just rubbed me the wrong way, and that continued well up to her death in Season 3. But seeing Carl cry for his mom after she went into labor trying to deliver Judith was what sealed the deal on heartbreak.
And no matter how much we may not like her as a collective group of fans, she was still Carl’s mother and Rick’s wife. The emotion and love were still there. Rick did everything to try and find somewhere safe for her only for Lori to die while giving birth. It all felt worthless and seeing Rick mentally crack afterward left us all feeling a bit uneasy.
10. Luke (Season 11)
Luke was arguably one of my favorite characters from the new group of people that arrived in Season 9 after the major time-jump. He was so sweet, a musician, and genuinely just wanted the best for everyone – which made his death that much sadder.
He was bitten, and while his friends did try to save his life by amputating his leg, he passed from the blood loss. And in seconds, he was gone. The tears just didn’t stop – and now they’re starting up again, ah, dang it.
9. Dale (Season 2)
Ah, Dale. The first moral compass of The Walking Dead. I often pair Sophia and Dale’s deaths in Season 2 as turning points of the show. Sophia's death showed that children can also be killed and are not safe, but Dale's death sealed the deal in regards to the approach of thinking hopefully and optimistically.
Dale always wanted to be the good guy and give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but even in the end that ended up getting him killed because the walkers don’t care if you’re good or not, only if you’re alive and he got eaten. It didn’t matter about the moralities of someone – only if you were living.
8. Abraham (Season 7)
I was never the hugest fan of Abraham on The Walking Dead, but I, for sure, did not expect him to die so easily. I felt that he had a lot more story to tell on the show than to just be killed by Negan in his lineup, but what made it worse was that it felt like he was getting his life on track.
He had finally come to terms with who he was and what he had done during his time in the world falling apart and had maybe found something like love with Sasha when it all went to crap so quickly, and he got his head smashed in. Plus, seeing both Rosita and Sasha cry over him felt like a punch to the heart. No matter what Abraham did, he still cared for them both and it hurt to see them so distressed over his death.
7. Hershel (Season 4)
I still feel all weepy thinking of Hershel’s death on The Walking Dead. The Governor was always a brutal man, and he demonstrated that by being unmoved by Rick’s speech about the horrors their two communities endured. The Governor brutally killed Hershel, the moral compass of this group, the one who always tended to try and think of a better option out of difficult situations.
And nothing will ever beat seeing Hershel’s partially decapitated head on the ground before The Governor just cut it off completely, just like that. And then Michonne went and stabbed him in the head once he turned into a walker. There was something just so heart-shattering, seeing him die just like that. He didn’t do anything wrong. But the world was brutal, and so was the Governor in his war against them.
6. Tyreese (Season 5)
I loved Tyreese. I felt that he was a cool dude with so much love and hope to give and to see him go out suddenly felt awful. But what made his death even more heartbreaking was how as he was dying after getting bit, he started to hallucinate and see the people he had cared for (who had died) speak to him, saying it was “okay” for him to move on.
The final five minutes of the episode on The Walking Dead make it worse, as the group tries desperately to save him, but he still passes on. We end with him being buried, and Sasha standing over the grave of her dead brother, gone. Just like that. Truly terrible.
5. Beth (Season 5)
Beth, near the end of Season 4 on The Walking Dead, was finally beginning to change her character, show some growth, become her own person instead of just Maggie’s little sister until she was kidnapped. And then, just as the group finds her, she tries a little stunt to save her friend Noah and ends up getting shot right in the head.
This death wasn’t a gut punch. This was a straight-up sucker punch to my head and had me crying for days on end. I was looking forward to where her story would take her and then it was ripped away. If the next three deaths hadn’t happened, this would for sure be at the top of my list.
4. The Whisperer Line Deaths (Season 9)
I’m lumping them all together because they all equally sucked on The Walking Dead. Did I know it was coming due to the comics? Yes, but at the same time, they changed so many of the deaths it was like a return to pain. The Whisperers wanted to make a statement, to create their border from the survivors, and boy did they.
All of the reanimated faces of some of the regular survivors, but with people we came to know – Henry, Enid, Tara – gone with their heads as walkers on sticks, it was like the lineup from Negan all over again.
3. Rosita (Season 11)
This one was personal. In the emotional finale of The Walking Dead, Rosita is able to save her baby from getting killed, but is bitten doing so. Thankfully, the battle at the Commonwealth ended soon enough for her to have a peaceful death alongside the ones she loved.
But even so, she was my girl. From the moment she appeared in Season 4, I was adoring Rosita so much. I always knew someone I loved was going to get taken out, and when I already knew about all The Walking Dead universe spin offs happening, it wasn’t going to be many of the O.G. characters, so it was only a matter of time. At least she got to say goodbye to her family.
2. Carl (Season 8)
While Carl dying (to me) made no sense considering I always felt The Walking Dead was his story, it doesn’t change the fact that it fits his character. He died trying to bring someone (Siddiq) to the community, to show the same type of welcomeness his dad had in the past, only for him to get bit.
What makes it worse is that Carl had changed so much at this point. He wasn’t just some dumb kid. He was genuinely trying to make a difference and help in the war against the Saviors, but the moment he died, Rick let go of basically any sort of morals he had for most of the war until the very end when he kept Negan alive. Because he knew that’s what his son would have wanted. It’s so heartbreaking, but honestly pretty impressive that The Walking Dead handled that big death so well.
1. Glenn (Season 7)
Ugh, God. Glenn.
Negan had already gotten his one kill in, everything seemed to be going fine until he said something that angered Daryl, who attacked Negan, and the leader of the Saviors felt he needed to punish the group.
So Negan goes and kills Glenn too, ending him the same way his comic version did. Glenn, his eyes bursting from his head, trying to speak to Maggie while she’s sobbing about her dying husband is an image that will always sit with me and make me remember The Walking Dead in its worst hours.
He never got to meet his son, or have the life with Maggie that he always wanted. And I will never forgive the show for that, which is why it will always be number one on my list. And it was also pretty much one of the grossest deaths on The Walking Dead too.
With eleven seasons, there are seriously so many deaths that have stayed on my mind for years – and I’ll probably be thinking of them when I go to sleep tonight, so thanks for that. Guess I have to tune into The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon for more gross deaths.
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Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!