Definitive Ranking of the 11 Saddest Moments from This Is Us

There's no show that's captured the struggle of just being human quite like This Is Us. 

The NBC series follows the ups and downs of the Pearson family, giving viewers a painfully realistic look into a range of familiar struggles. In our opinion, the incredible relatability of the characters is what makes this show so powerful… and so heartbreaking.

This Is Us: Jack hugging Rebecca

(This Is Us via NBC)

The show returns Sept. 25 at 9 p.m. ET for its third season, and we already have our tissues boxes ready. Since we like torturing ourselves, we figured the best way to prepare for This Is Us season 3 is by looking back on some of the most tragic moments the Pearsons have experienced thus far.

Keep scrolling for the definitive ranking of the 11 saddest moments from This Is Us.

11. Dr. Katowski Comforts Rebecca

Episode: "The Car"— Season 2, Episode 15

Jack Pearson's death is one of the most crucial storylines in the series. And while the moment itself was soul-crushing, many of the moments after it that depict the family dealing with the loss are equally as difficult to watch. One of these is the conversation between Dr. Katowski and Rebecca.

Knowing Jack was often better at socializing with the kids (and having simply lost her life partner and best friend), Rebecca is really struggling with the idea that she now has to raise three children on her own. Not only is Dr. Katowski a crucial character wh0's helped the Pearsons in the past by adding a sense of nostalgia to this scene, it's also one of the only moments that we get to see Rebecca give in to her grief, rather than staying strong for her kids. We still weren't/aren't over Jack's death, and this scene certainly didn't help.

10. Jack Does Push-Ups With Randall

Episode: "The Trip"—Season 1, Episode 9

As Rebecca and Jack struggle to give Randall a community as the only adopted member of their family, they enroll him in a karate class where he can be surrounded by people who support and uplift him. Part of joining this class involves Randall climbing on top of Jack's back as Jack does push-ups, thereby physically representing the idea of holding him up as his father. On top of that, the scene is overlaid with clips of Rebecca deciding to keep Randall from William, as she wants to ensure that they'll always be enough for his son. It's all good intentions and familial love that ends up being a bit misguided in the long run, bringing a certain tear-jerking poignance to this scene.

9. Deja Leaves

Episode: "Number Three"—Season 2, Episode 10

While Deja eventually returns to the Pearson family, that doesn't detract from the upsetting moment of her departure. After her mom is released from jail earlier than expected, Randall and Beth agree to let Deja go home with her mother, knowing that's what she wants. However, it's obvious that all parties involved are upset at the separation, and the genuine emotion that Randall feels for his foster daughter brought tears to all our eyes.

8. Rebecca Comforts Kate

Episode: "Number Two"—Season 2, Episode 9

Although Rebecca and Kate have a highly contentious mother-daughter relationship, Rebecca immediately runs to her child's side after Kate has a miscarriage. Kate opens the door, falls into her mother's arms and bursts into tears. It's an incredibly pure moment that proves no amount of discord can change their love for each other, which is exactly what makes it so heartbreaking.

7. Rebecca and Jack Learn About Their Stillborn Child

Episode: "Pilot"—Season 1, Episode 1

This Is Us definitely didn't pull any punches with their pilot episode. We were immediately shown just how emotional this show would be. Although Jack and Rebecca were always expecting three children, they were planning for three of their own… until one of their babies was stillborn. Dr. Katowski delivers this news to Jack in a painful scene that sets an important tone for the rest of the series, and then Jack goes on to deliver this news to a disbelieving Rebecca. It's obviously important to the rest of the story, but watching these parents struggle with their loss from the very beginning of the series already had us in tears.

6. The Fire Montage

Episode: "That'll Be the Day"—Season 2, Episode 13

While Jack's death is absolutely traumatic, the fire montage in the previous episode is almost equally upsetting. Set to the tune of "To Build a Home" (which is honestly just unfair), we see Jack clean up his house after Super Bowl Sunday, write a note to Kevin and head upstairs to go to bed. Due to a faulty switch, the slow cooker clicks back on, starting the fire that changes the Pearson family's life for good. We see the fire grow and build intercut with scenes of a happy Pearson family, reminding us of everything we're about to lose in the very next episode. It's gut-wrenching and painful and absolutely heartbreaking.

5. William's Death

Episode: "Memphis"—Season 1, Episode 16

William is an incredibly complex character in the first season of This Is Us. He brings both happiness and pain to the Pearson family, as Randall tries to forgive him for giving him up and simultaneously forgive Rebecca for keeping William from him for so many years.

Although he's had a difficult life, he treats all of Randall's family with respect and love. Losing him closes a door on one chapter of Randall's life and reminds us that he only had such a limited time to get to know his birth father. Even though we knew it was coming, William's death was an incredibly emotional moment that definitely drew quite a few tears in the first season of the series.

4. Kevin Breaks Down on the Football Field

Episode: "Number One"—Season 2, Episode 8

Kevin is perhaps the most difficult Pearson child to watch, as he often comes across as self-absorbed and vindictive, particularly in his younger years. When he returns to his high school for a celebration of his achievements, however, he heads to the football field and completely breaks down about the direction his life has taken, and the deep impact his father's death had on him. It's a genuinely painful moment to watch, as we get a glimpse for the first time into the years of guilt and self-hate that Kevin has put himself through.

3. Kate and Toby's Wedding

Episode: "The Wedding"—Season 2, Episode 18

While it's clear that the entire Pearson family struggles with Jack's death, Kate's grief is perhaps the most openly documented in present day. On the day of her wedding, she struggles with the idea that her dad won't be there and slowly comes to terms with that fact. The moment she walks down the aisle and marries Toby is beautiful and happy, but it's overlaid with Jack talking about the amazing man she's going to meet someday and that fact that he'll be there watching. It's heartbreaking and beautiful all at once, not to mention completely unfair to our fragile emotions.

2. Kevin Comforts Randall

Episode: "Jack Pearson's Son"—Season 1, Episode 15

After Kevin hits a major roadblock in his career, he lands a role on Broadway that he really needs, both professionally and personally. On opening night he gets a call from Randall and quickly recognizes that something's up, as Randall is prone to having panic attacks. Instead of going onstage, Kevin puts his family above himself and runs across town to comfort his brother. It's absolutely heartbreaking for so many reasons, not the least of which being that it's one of the few and only times Kevin puts aside his personal frustrations and the history of their contentious relationship and acts as a genuinely good brother to Randall.

1. Jack Dies

Episode: "Super Bowl Sunday"—Season 2, Episode 14

Ugh, the episode we were all waiting for, and it was just as painful as we imagined it would be. Jack saves his family from the fire and even goes back inside for Kate's dog and a few family mementos. He seems to be fine, but he and Rebecca head to the hospital for a routine checkup to ensure that everything is okay.

While Rebecca steps away to make a phone call, Jack has a heart attack and passes away. We see it happening in the background and watch the doctor break the news to Rebecca, who can't grasp that her husband has died in the few minutes it took her to get a snack. It was the most heartbreaking way for this scene to play out because it was the perfect storm of events to breed guilt and "what-if" self-doubt that affects the family for years to come. Not to mention, we lost the purest human on earth, Jack Pearson.


On the hunt for more cathartic crying? Click HERE for our definitive ranking of the most heartbreaking Disney moments.