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You Should Have Died Instead

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Faramir: You wish now that our places had been exchanged. That I had died and Boromir had lived.
Denethor: ...Yes. I wish that.

If Alice died, and Bob wishes he had died instead, that would be Survivor Guilt. This is when Bob wishes Carol had died instead.

Then, those with Survivor Guilt may think that others think this.

Sometimes used in family situations to lampshade that the target of the comment is The Un-Favourite. A variation might be "I should have aborted you," "You were an accident" or something similar. An easy Kick the Dog (or Moral Event Horizon) line. On the other hand, there are cases when Bob is right, and that if Carol had died, Alice would have lived (and, on occasion, that Carol should have died instead). This can lead to a "Well Done, Son" Guy relationship when it comes to a father-son dynamic.

When the dead person is the survivor's mother, Death by Childbirth can result in the subtrope Maternal Death? Blame the Child!.

On the other hand, if you, Dirty Coward that you are, survived by sacrificing the other character, expect no mercy. Compare I Wished You Were Dead. Saying this can occur during a Moment of Weakness.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • AIR: Minagi Tohno reveals she was going to have a little sister (to have been named Michiru) but her mother miscarried. Her mother calls Minagi "Michiru".
  • AR∀GO: City of London Police's Special Crimes Investigator: When Arago and Rio meet for the first time after Ewan's death, Rio quite explicitly expresses to Arago how she wishes that he would have died in Ewan's stead. This changes pretty quickly though.
  • Berserk: Guts's adoptive father Gambino told him this word for word when he tried to kill him. He's referring to Sys, Gambino's lover, who died from the plague just three years after they took Guts in. He blames this on Guts due to a superstitious belief that his being born from a corpse makes him bad luck, which fueled a hatred that had previously led him to sell the kid to one of his men as a child prostitute for three silver coins.
  • In the Death Note manga, Light says this to Ryuk (a God of Death).
    Light: *sighs* I wish Rem had survived instead of you.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • In the Saiyan Saga, a freshly mourning Bulma tells Yajirobe that he should have been killed by the Saiyans instead of Yamcha, Tien, Chiaotzu, and Piccolo, after he basically told the other characters "Hey, I'm still alive, you know!". Given that Yajirobe spent most of the battle hiding from Nappa and Vegeta instead of fighting alongside the heroes, Bulma wasn't necessarily in the wrong for being angry at him.
      Bulma: YOU should have died!! YOOOOUUU!!!!!
    • The Buu Saga has more of an indirect example than most, but after Buu destroys the Earth, Vegeta calls Goku out on making an effort to save Dende and Mr. Satan, as it resulted in them leaving behind their own sons (and Piccolo), who were all subsequently killed in the explosion. Granted, it's hard to blame Goku for that specifically, as Satan and Dende were on the way to the drop-off point, and Vegeta (who hadn't stopped to grab them) likely wouldn't have been able to make it to the boys anyway. However, given the circumstances, it's also hard to call Vegeta out on this, as shown when Dende can do nothing but offer a meek "sorry" as an apology. However, the decision pays off with Mr. Satan's interference in the battle with Kid Buu, as it allows the good portions of Majin Buu to escape from his evil side's body. And it really pays off when Dende goes to Namek and uses their Dragon Balls to restore the Earth and revive everyone killed by Buu, and Mr. Satan's influence helps to convince the people of Earth to lend Goku their energy for the Spirit Bomb.
  • H₂O: Footprints in the Sand: In a flashback, Hinata's grandfather wishes that Hotaru, whom we had known to this point as Hinata, had died instead of her sister. So much that he forces her to steal her sister's identity and renounce her room, her hobbies, and anything that made Hotaru distinct from the real Hinata. No wonder it hurts when the townspeople gossip that it was better that Hinata survived and Hotaru died.
  • SHUFFLE!: Eight years prior to the story, both of Rin's parents and Kaede's mother are killed in a car accident. Kaede became traumatized from the incident, losing her will to live. Rin overhears the doctor saying that she needs a reason, any reason, to live. Rin then goes to Kaede and tells her that on the night of the accident, he was lonely and phoned his parents, asking them to come back. Since his parents and Kaede's mother rode in the same car, he essentially told Kaede that it was his fault that her mother died. This causes Kaede to snap out of her stupor and she tries to strangle Rin to death. Rin manages to escape, but since Kaede's father has taken Rin into their home, Rin must constantly put up with Kaede's deep hatred of him. While putting on a front of being friends with Rin around her father, Kaede does such things as vandalizing Rin's room, dropping a box-cutter on his face so that it slices his eye while he's coming up the stairs, locks him out of the house when it's raining, and goes outside to meet him where she tells him "I don't understand. Why did my mother have to die, while someone like you still gets to live? I wish you were dead. I mean it! Just die!" Once she finds out that it was actually indirectly her fault that her mother died (she had fallen ill, and her father asked her mother and Rin's parents to come home) she then spends the next few years of her life completely devoting herself to Rin in an attempt to make up for how she treated him during their childhood.
  • In Skip Beat!, Rick died in a car accident and this event caused Kuon to fall into an Angst Coma. Since Rick was only running after Kuon to stop him from getting into another fight and got hit by a car, there's quite a lot of guilt on Kuon's side. Not helped by the blonde woman that cradled the dead Rick and not only said this trope to Kuon but also called him a murderer. The only way Kuon got himself out of this Angst Coma was to become Ren Tsuruga. And when he almost gets into a car accident on a set involving a little child, he suffers horrible flashbacks.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Not exactly death but when Yugi pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to save Yami from the Orichalcos in an anime filler arc, Rebecca (who has fallen for him at some point prior to the arc) delivers this to a shell-shocked Yami and worsens his guilt over being responsible.
  • A Cruel God Reigns: Played straight and is a literal line from Jeremy when he is standing at Sandra's grave. He says that Greg should have died instead, as Greg is still hospitalized at this point.
  • In Naruto, Neji essentially has this attitude toward Hiashi, and to a lesser extent, Hinata, and the cause of his resentment toward the head family is blaming them for his father, Hizashi's, death. When Neji was four and Hinata was three, Hinata was kidnapped, and her father Hiashi killed the kidnapper, an important dignitary from the Cloud Village. The Cloud Village then demanded the murderer's death, and the head family had Hizashi die in Hiashi's place, although it later turns out that Hizashi did so willingly and Hiashi actually had to be restrained from stopping him.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run: A flashback shows that after his brother's death, Johnny's father told him that "God took the wrong son..."
  • Attack on Titan:
    • Ymir indirectly expresses this sentiment by saying how it's unfortunate that Armin is the Sole Survivor of his patrol group, and wasn't worth the sacrifices of Eren and the rest (Eren later survived by turning into a Titan, but no one knew this at the time).
    • Armin gets this again much later on when he was chosen to be saved over Erwin. Levi was given a serum that would transform someone into a Titan, and it was up to him to decide who to use it on. Armin and Erwin were both on the verge of death after an excruciating battle against the Armored, Colossal, Beast and Cart Titans, and the Survey Corps had successfully captured Bertolt, the Colossal Titan. All the other characters at the scene insisted on giving Erwin the serum, but Eren and Mikasa physically fought Levi and Hange trying to persuade them otherwise. Eventually, Levi chose Armin (his reasoning has yet to be discussed, but it's implied that he realized Erwin just wanted to die right then and there), who is now the Colossal Titan. Afterwards, at an official gathering, Floch who was responsible for rescuing Erwin from the battlefield and bringing him to where the main characters were gathered, approaches Eren, Armin and Mikasa and calls them out on their actions, directly saying to Armin that he's not good enough to be Erwin's replacement. Eren retaliates saying that Floch knows absolutely nothing about Armin and that he shouldn't judge him, but Floch's opinion doesn't change at all.
  • Pokémon: I Choose You!: After Charizard loses a battle to Cross, Ash gets mad and says that Pikachu could have won that battle. He runs into a forest in anger with Pikachu at his heels. He gets mad at Pikachu and says that he wished he'd gotten a Squirtle starter instead. He instantly regrets it but, in his anger, ignores it and runs away. It isn't until later that the two reconcile.
  • In A Silent Voice Ueno tells this to Shouko after Shouya saves her from a suicide attempt. He stops her from trying to jump off a balcony, but he accidentally falls and ends up in a coma instead.
  • In In This Corner of the World, Suzu is looking after her young niece Harumi when a time-delayed bomb goes off nearby, killing Harumi, and causing Suzu to lose her right hand. Keiko, Harumi's mother and Suzu's sister-in-law, blinded by grief, calls Suzu a "murderer," indirectly expressing the wish that Suzu had died instead. Some of the others nearby believe that Keiko didn't mean this, and Keiko later apologizes.
  • In No Game No Life, near the start of Volume 6/the movie, Riku orders Ivan, a fellow human, to make a Heroic Sacrifice to enable everyone else to escape. When Riku gets home and delivers the bad news to Ivan's daughter, Nonna, Nonna bursts into tears and says Riku should have died instead.
  • Late in Charlotte, Kumagami and Nao are abducted by some terrorists, who demand that Yuu turn himself over to them in exchange for the hostages' safety. Kumagami's colleagues in the "Syndicate" decide to send Yuu in to defeat the terrorists and save the hostages. The rescue attempt goes horribly wrong when Yuu loses an eye, thereby preventing him from turning back time, then inadvertently activates his "collapse" ability and destroys the building, with the hostages in the basement. Yuu manages to survive, by using his telekinesis, but Kumagami dies protecting Nao. After finding Yuu in the rubble, Shichino says that he'll be angry if the other two are dead, and after Yuu learns of Kumagami's fate, Shichino says that it happened because Yuu was "trying to save (his) own ass."

    Comic Books 
  • In Hellblazer, John Constantine gets this a lot. A lot of times, the people saying it are right. Even Constantine agrees. To rub salt in it, when we see another universe where John's stillborn brother survived instead of him, he's well-adjusted and liked, implying that it really should have been John.
  • In New Krypton, the murder of Supergirl's father Zor-El changes his wife Alura into a cold, short-tempered and harsh person who abuses her daughter constantly. In Who is Superwoman?, Kara reaches her breaking point after several weeks putting up with Alura's mistreatment, and wonders why Reactron couldn't have killed her mother instead of her father.
    "Lana, what's wrong with her? Why is she so horrible to me? I do what she asks. I try so hard to help her, and all I get is her anger. Her disapproval. She wasn't like this when dad was alive. I can't help but wonder, Lana... Why c—" (whispering) "...Why couldn't [Reactron] have killed her instead of father?"
  • Watchmen: Rorschach's backstory reveals that his mother was a prostitute, and as a child, he interrupted her while she was busy on the job. Her john left, paying only a token amount, and she descended angrily on her son—slapping him, shaking him, and shouting "I should have had that abortion!" As an adult, when he was informed of his mother's death, he responded with a single word: "Good."
  • Runaways: In the final arc, an accident results in an explosion that hits Old Lace and Klara. Old Lace covers Klara, shielding her from the blast, and apparently dies as a result. Throughout the arc, Chase makes it abundantly clear that he wishes Klara had died instead. Later, when the team shows up in Avengers Academy, it's heavily implied that Klara's developed such severe Survivor's Guilt that she blames herself for the accident.
  • Circles: Douglas says this cold-heartedly to Arthur after he blames himself and wishes it was him that got sick instead of Paulie.

    Fan Works 
  • In Lily Potter's Biggest Secret Ron tells some vicious lies about Harry, Hermione, and Snape to a Daily Prophet reporter in a bid for attention. Mama Weasley is Not Happy.
    Molly Weasley: That a child of mine and Arthur's could act in this manner. That you would be so vindictive and undoubtedly petulant that you are willing to destroy the lives of three people we hold dear and in such high respect, makes me physically ill. I never dreamed I would have cause to say this to one of my own children, but I wish now Fred had been spared and you were in his place. At least we would be able to remember you with respect.
  • Played with in the Magi fic Where I Reign. Arba, who is trying to complete her Grand Theft Me on her daughter Hakuei's body, tries to torment her into giving up the will to live and stop fighting her for control. This includes telling her how inferior she is to her dead father and brothers, and how little her life is worth compared to theirs. Hakuei...agrees.
    Arba: In everyone's eyes but mine, you pale in comparison to your father and big brothers, and if your cousins could trade your life for theirs, they would do it in a heartbeat.
    Hakuei: So would I. What's your point?
    Arba: [Beat of Stunned Silence, before changing the subject entirely]
  • Fates Collide: Astolfo sacrifices himself by Taking the Bullet for Ruby Rose. In the sequel, Lost to Dust, Astolfo's friend Bradamante angrily says Ruby should have been the one to die.
  • A New Hope (Danganronpa): After Ibuki's death, Kaede tries to comfort a distraught Leon (as he and the victim had a thing for each other), only for Leon to snap at her and say that it should have been her. This outburst is later used to pin the murder on Leon, as the trap actually was meant to kill Kaede, but Nagito tampered with it so that it would kill someone else.
  • In Infinity Train: Knight of the Orange Lily, Grace kills the kind leader of the 400 Rabbits Car, Utahoshi, and didn't feel sorry about it. Tokio is in tears and wishes that she died instead of him for being an unsympathetic apathetic bitch who only thinks about herself and not others. Then two stories later, he gets his wish as Grace gets murdered by a denizen.
  • In Seta Suzume's Your Own Kind, the fianceé of Beto's district partner unsubtly indicates that he wishes she'd lived and Beto had died. Beto himself seems to agree (in an Insane Troll Logic way), and feels that he needs to save a District 3 female tribute to restore the balance and make it feel as if his district partner were alive again.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Alaska Sean says to his father's face how he wishes he had died and not his mom. Unfortunately, parents don't need to use words to make such a message understood.
  • Avengers: Endgame reveals that Clint Barton lost his entire family to the Blip, and is coping with it by traveling the world butchering criminal groups who weren't dusted. When a yakuza boss asks for his motive, Clint responds with this trope.
    Ronin: You survived...half the planet didn't. They got Thanos. You get me.
  • Batman Forever: During their brief fight after Robin gets in over his head against a vicious gang and is saved by Batman, Robin takes out his frustration upon Batman. Two-Face had placed a bomb in the circus where Robin's family had performed, threatening to set it off unless Batman revealed himself. Robin's family tried to reach the bomb, but Two-Face killed Robin's parents and brother during the attempt.
    Dick: Bastard! It should have been you! It's your fault! If you'd told Two-Face who you were at the circus, they'd still be alive!
    • In fact, Bruce had tried, yelling out "Harvey! I'm Batman!" just beforehand, but no one could hear him over the screaming of the others.
      Batman: If Bruce Wayne could have given his life for your family, he would have.
  • Dark Blue: After Bobby gets killed by Daryl and Sidwell thanks to an ambush set up by Van Meter, Beth, crying angry tears, tells Eldon, "It should have been you."
  • Daylight's End: Chief Hill expresses outrage that Rourke is alive when the others he took with him to attack the Alpha's nest, including Hill's surviving son Ethan, are dead.
  • In The Hangover Part III, Alan's father dies of a heart attack in the beginning. At the funeral, Alan says his mother should have been the one who died.
  • In I Miss You, I Miss You, after her twin sister Cilla gets hit by a car and dies while Tina remains unharmed, Tina has nightmares where Cilla tells Tina that she should have died instead because she didn't see the car coming.
  • In Kick-Ass:
    Kick-Ass: If it wasn't for you, I would be dead!
    Hit-Girl: If it wasn't for you, my daddy wouldn't be.
  • Legion: Sandra pretty much says this to her daughter after Howard dies.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: The source of the page quote. Steward Denethor feels this way regarding the death of his eldest and favorite son Boromir, wishing that his younger son Faramir had died instead. While the novel largely leaves this as implied, the movie makes it explicit; Faramir states what he believes his father is thinking (after a scene in the Extended Edition where the Steward berates him and compares him negatively to his brother), and Denethor openly confirms it. Subverted in that, when Faramir returns from the ill-fated charge near death, Denethor loses it completely and tries to burn himself and Faramir alive.
  • Ordinary People: Beth makes it no secret that she wished Conrad had died instead of Buck.
  • In Stand by Me, Gordy was never as understood or loved by his parents as his athletic big brother, who was killed in a car crash a year before the film. He has a Past Experience Nightmare at one point, being at the funeral, and hearing his father say, "It should have been you, Gordon." While this might be All Just a Dream, Gordy mentions another detail about the funeral a moment later as it were true...
  • In Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (an over-the-top parody of Walk the Line and other musical biopics), his own father tells him "The wrong kid died." Repeatedly. He visits Dewey in rehab just to reiterate this, he sings it as he does fieldwork...
  • The Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line shows how Johnny's father blamed him for his brother's death and didn't respect his musical accomplishments.
  • In Jersey Girl 2004, when Ollie and Gertie get into a heated argument, Gertie reaches a point where she says that she wished that Ollie died and not her mother.

  • The Time Traveler's Wife: Henry believes this is one of the reasons his father dislikes him, as he survived the car crash that killed his mother.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Denethor believes his youngest son, Faramir, should have died in place of his elder brother Boromir, Denethor's favorite. He's less blatant about it in the books than in the film adaptation (the latter being the source of the page quote), but it's still there under the surface. It's strategic thinking mixed up with Parental Favoritism as Boromir was widely considered the better warrior on top of Denethor getting on with him better. Faramir's refusal to take the Ring compounds this, as Denethor wanted one son or the other to bring it to him as a weapon of last resort—Boromir would have (or so Denethor believes) and Faramir utterly refused when given an even better chance to take it than his brother had. note 
  • Being an Affectionate Parody of The Lord of the Rings, Eludoran has an instance of this between Lorelei and Arulaine that mirrors the Denethor-Faramir example.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Wormtail tries to justify to Harry, Sirius, and Lupin his betrayal of Lily and James Potter, claiming that Voldemort would have killed him if he hadn't told him where they were. Sirius shouts furiously, "THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED! Died rather than betray your friends, as we would have done for you!" Justified in that Sirius isn't saying that, all other things held equal, it would have been better for Peter to die than James and Lily; rather, he's specifically berating Peter for giving up his friends to save his own skin.
    • This trope is heavily implied to be the reason behind Professor Snape's reprehensible treatment of Neville Longbottom throughout all his time at school. Neville and Harry were both the potential subject of the prophecy Snape had overheard and relayed to Voldemort years before, and Voldemort choosing the latter over the former led to the death of Harry's mother and Snape's childhood love, Lily.
  • Late in Aunt Dimity's Christmas, Lady Haverford admits to provoking this in her brother Christopher Anscombe-Smith (known as variously as "Kit" and "Smitty"), the vagrant who collapsed in Lori's driveway. He had questioned the glory of their father's actions in WWII, and the father compiled a memoir of his unit's bombing raids in an effort to explain himself to his son. Some ten years later, the father hanged himself and Lady Haverford blamed her brother for causing the suicide. The brother took this accusation to heart, gave away his wealth, lived as a vagrant, and performed a variety of good deeds along the way.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Catelyn Stark dislikes her husband Ned Stark's illegitimate child, Jon, in A Game of Thrones. After her own son Bran is critically injured after being pushed from a tall window, Catelyn tells Jon that it should have been him.
    • A poignant example appears in the Prequel, Tales of Dunk and Egg where at the end of "The Hedge Knight", Prince Valarr grieves for the loss of his kind father, the beloved Baelor Breakspear, and wonders how a hedge knight like Dunk gets to live instead of the man who had the potential to be the greatest of the Targaryen Kings.
    • Sansa tells her sister Arya she should have been killed instead of her pet direwolf Lady. Sansa fails to realize that Lady's death is partly her own fault as she refused to admit to the king that Arya attacked Joffrey out of self-defense.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four: At the end, Room 101's purpose, at least for Winston, is to make him truly wish the torture on his loved ones instead of himself.
  • In the horror novel Ghost Radio, Joaquin had survived several near-fatal accidents that also killed his parents and friends, which eventually motivates him to start the titular call-in station to share ghost stories on the air. His dead friend Gabriel, however, is pissed that Joaquin survived since he knows that anyone who gets too involved with Joaquin will eventually end up dead, one way or another.
  • In Henry James' novel Washington Square, the father of heroine Catherine Sloper hates his daughter because his beloved wife died while giving birth to her. He spends the rest of his life belittling and tormenting her emotionally.
  • Fable: In the novel based on the video game, the main character is called into his dying mother's bedchamber where she tells him that she's happy that he survived the balverine attack instead of his brother since he has prospects and business sense whereas his brother was just a dreamer. Only problem is that she's remembering it backwards and thinks he's his dead brother.
  • After the birth of Miles, near the end of Barrayar, Count Piotr says that he wishes that Mad Emperor Yuri's death squad had killed Aral, instead of his older brother. This is the final straw in their deteriorating relationship, leading to a five-year estrangement.
  • Satirical variation: British columnist Victor Lewis-Smith has been quoted as saying "The Beatles are dying in the wrong order." George Carlin wrote something similar: "The wrong two Beatles died first." Comedienne Judy Tenuta once joked that John Lennon's assassin Mark David Chapman would have been considered a hero if he'd aimed two feet to the left.
  • Stephen King's Duma Key, features divorced wife Pam saying this to Edgar when their daughter is killed.
  • Another Stephen King example comes in The Eyes of The Dragon where the universally beloved Queen Sasha dies giving birth to the rather useless Prince Thomas. Thomas imagines that not only his father, but pretty much everyone in the kingdom is thinking, "We lost your mother, and we got you instead?"
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: 9-year-old Oskar says this to his mother. He immediately regrets it, but in her pain, she has a hard time forgiving him.
  • In Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood when one of the characters, Midori, is telling the protagonist her backstory, she talks about her mother dying and her father saying to her and her sister he'd rather they died than her, and how on one level she admitted the sentiment was very nice to her mother, but on the other, it wasn't something a father should say to his daughters.
  • There is an old children's horror novel Grave Doubts (Shockers) where the main character's name is Matt, and his apparently perfect older sister, Penny, was murdered ten years ago. He often gets into trouble, and during one incident, his mother tells him, "And poor Penny's the one who had to die!" Later on, she tries to make it up to him, but he never forgets how badly it hurt him to hear it. Of course, it turns out that Penny wasn't so nice and kind after all, and actually died in the attempt to kill a four-year-old Matt...
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians Hades tells Nico that he wishes that he had died instead of Bianca.
  • In Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Hearthstone already had the problem of being born deaf, while elves react badly to anyone who's not "perfect." Worse, when he was eight his brother Andiron died, with Heathstone nearby but unable to hear his cries for help; as a result, their parents not only openly say that Hearthstone should have died, they insist that he pay Andiron's wergild. Ironically Andiron's spirit appears later in the series and reassures Hearthstone that he was not responsible for his death.
  • From Adeline Yen Mah's memoir Falling Leaves. Jeanne openly wishes that her daughter, Susan, had died instead of her favorite child, Franklin, a brat and a bully who died from bulbar polio contracted after gorging himself on unwashed strawberries. The resulting quarrel leads to Susan's disinheritance.
  • In A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, it's the treatment Christine feels she got when she was attending the wake for her brother Lee's funeral because she talked him into joining the army, which during his time of service he was sent to Vietnam and was reported as MIA.
  • In the Warrior Cats Expanded Universe novel Crookedstar's Promise, Thistleclaw says that Bluestar should have died instead of her recently deceased twin sister Snowfur, who was also his mate.
    • Inverted in The Last Hope, where Graystripe tells a recently-killed Firestar that he would have taken his place if he could.
  • In Inkspell, after Dustfinger makes a deal with the White Women to offer his life in exchange for bringing Farid back, Roxanne, Dustfinger's wife, furiously tells Farid that he ought to be dead instead of Dustfinger. Why? Because Roxanne wouldn't let Orpheous use Word Power to try to bring him back, and Farid disagreed with her. This made its way onto the Dethroning Moment of Suck page.
  • A non-human example from Mockingjay: Katniss finds her sister Prim's pet cat in the ruins of District 12 and wonders why, if one of Prim's pets was still alive, it had to be the cat (whom Katniss had always hated) rather than the goat (whom Katniss thought was both sweet and useful).
  • In Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock, when Shann finds Thorvald in the dreams, and Thorvald registers him, Thorvald says that Garth had died in the Throg attack, and Shann should have died too. On the other hand, he is still in the grip of the dreams at the time—as soon as he realizes that Shann is really there, he is warm and welcoming. The dreams were tests of character, where both had to relive love and pain; later, Thorvald takes Shann under his wing.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's Last Herald-Mage Trilogy, Vanyel, who is grieving and shocked from the loss of his lover Tylendel and being landed with half-a-dozen psychic gifts at once, gets this reaction from the Herald who is watching over him. While the man would never have said it out loud, Vanyel has just become an extremely powerful telepath and hearing those thoughts pushes him over the edge and into a suicide attempt.
    • Van also picks this up from other characters. He'd been doing an Obfuscating Stupidity routine, playing up a sneering brat persona and pretending violent homophobia towards Tylendel to hide their relationship. As a consequence almost everyone who liked Tylendel hated Vanyel's guts and were horrified and angry to hear that Tylendel had died and Vanyel had lived and been Chosen. They all had, again, enough manners not to tell him this but, again, he'd just been made extremely psychic.
  • In the Chronicles of the Kencyrath short story "Hearts of Woven Shadow", Gerraint Highlord's favoritism of his eldest son Greshan extends to openly telling his younger son Ganth that he should have been the one to die (despite the fact that this is nonsensical—Ganth was nowhere near when Greshan died).
  • After older brother Jonatan dies in a fire in The Brothers Lionheart, younger brother Karl overhears many friends and acquaintances saying or implying to his mother that Karl should have been the one to die. Somewhat justified, in that Karl is terminally ill, whereas Jonatan was both healthy and talented.
  • In What to Say Next, Kit's father was recently killed in a car crash. She tells her mom, "I wish it was you who died. Not Dad. You. It's not fair," because she's mad at her for sleeping with her husband's best friend while he was still alive.
  • Remember Dippy: Leesha, who works at her aunt Holly's hair salon, is eager to get out of her hometown of Chicago for the summer because her family has been dysfunctional ever since her brother died in a car crash. Their parents showed no favoritism while he was alive, but now that he's dead, her parents see him as perfect and are constantly getting angry at her for not measuring up.
  • In the third book of The Daevabad Trilogy, Jamshid tells Ali that he should be dead instead of Muntadhir, Ali's brother and Jamshid's lover. (Muntadhir actually survived, but neither of them know.) When Nahri and Ali point out that Muntadhir willingly took the blow, Jamshid says this is no excuse because Ali's duty was for there never to be a situation where his brother could be between him and a sword.
  • Prudence Penderhaus: Mrs. Shooster repeatedly tells her autistic son Cassius that she wishes he'd died instead of his twin brother Andrew. It turns out that when the brothers were four, she tried to murder Cassius, but got the two mixed up and killed Andrew instead. To cover up her crime, she told her husband that Cassius had murdered his brother.
  • The Witch of Knightcharm: A couple weeks after Morgan murders Alejandra's sister Julia, Emily attempts to show sympathy only for Alejandra to flip out at her. Alejandra makes it very clear that she's fine with their evil Wizarding School killing 'weak' students, and she further believes that other students like Emily 'should have' been killed in place of her sister, who was a stronger witch than the other students.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow:
    • In the pilot episode, Oliver Queen comes Back from the Dead after supposedly being Lost at Sea in a yacht sinking. He goes to apologize to his ex-fiancé Laurel Lance, as he was cheating on Laurel with her sister Sara who was on the yacht at the time. Laurel tells Oliver he should have died instead of Sara and he agrees with her, even though she later takes back the comment.
    • When Oliver's sister Thea thinks that her mother is having an affair with Malcolm Merlyn (and has been since before her father died), she tells her it should have been her on the yacht.
  • In Awake, Rex says this of his father, though, in a realistic spin, he's ashamed of it.
  • Xander implies this in a mild way in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series finale when Andrew tells him that Anya saved his life, sacrificing herself in the process. "That's my girl... Always doing the stupid thing".
  • In Community, Rich Stephenson is a highly talented doctor who is good at everything he does. He also has serious Mommy Issues, which stem from his brother dying on a rollercoaster.
    Rich's Mom: A clay ashtray? You're an idiot. Why do you have time to make pottery? Couldn't you use a little more practice being a doctor? Not that it'll ever bring your brother back to life... It was supposed to be you on that rollercoaster, Richard. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE YOU!
  • Dexter: Astor says this to Dexter when she finds out her mother Rita is dead.
  • Doctor Who: In "Demons of the Punjab", Manish, the youngest of three brothers, who became radicalized while his two older brothers were fighting in World War II, says he wishes Prem, the brother who survived, had died instead of the oldest one, Kunal, because Manish thinks that Kunal would have taken his side over his hatred of Prem marrying a Muslim woman.
  • Game of Thrones: This is strongly implied to be a factor in Cersei hating Tyrion. It leads to what is probably her best comeback.
    Cersei: Mother gone. All for the sake of you. There's no bigger joke in the world than that.
  • General Hospital. After his grandson Jason tells him that another grandson Justus has been killed due to involvement with Jason's mob business, Edward Quartermaine angrily tells him, "I wish it had been you!", then proceeds to blast him for having spent the past decade treating his family like garbage and dragging Justus into the mafia life.
  • Happy Valley: Daniel recollects Catherine saying this to him after Becky's death.
  • In The Haunting of Hill House, Hugh's attempt to tell his kids the supernatural reality they're living under during the funeral of Nell causes Steve (who believes it's hereditary mental illness rather than a haunting that caused their mother to commit suicide) to snap and scream at him that the wrong parent died that night. Nell's ghost seemingly shoves her own casket to the ground to shut them up.
  • House: After Amber's death, Wilson tells House he should have been alone on the bus. It doesn't help House's Survivor's Guilt any, but Wilson's not been told anything about that and is clearly just hurting.
  • iCarly
    • Not death, per se, but Freddie's mom does this quite a few times after Freddie gets hit by a truck pushing Carly out of the way in "iSaved Your Life".
      Carly: How is he?
      Mrs. Benson: Broken. Damaged. But I see you're fine, isn't that nice?
    • And this gem:
      It should have been yoooooou.
  • In I, Claudius, Claudius' mother tells him flat out that she wishes he had died instead of his more accomplished brother (who was poisoned by his grandmother's agents.) Of course, if Claudius hadn't been acting like a complete fool, he would have probably been likewise targeted for death as a young man, since his political beliefs also ran counter to his grandmother's.
  • Lost: Benjamin Linus's father expressed these sentiments to Ben—that he'd wished Ben had died rather than his mother.
  • Millennium (1996): In the third season, Mr. Miller tells Frank that he wishes Frank had died instead of Catherine. This is a fairly understandable case, as almost any family would choose their daughter over their son-in-law if push came to shove.
    • There is also the matter that Catherine's death was linked to the Ancient Conspiracy Frank was involved with. Although Mr. Miller never found out about the full truth, he nevertheless suspected that there was more to her death than it seems and thus holds Frank responsible for it.
  • My Country: The New Age:
    • Nam Jeon tells Seon-ho he should have died instead of his half-brother.
    • Seong-gye says this to Bang-won after Bang-seok's death.
  • Never Have I Ever: Hours before her dad died, Davi heard her mom tell him that she was tired of putting up with Davi and she was through with her, saying she was no longer her child. A year later, a fight with her mom triggers the memory, and Davi tearfully tells her that she wished her mom had died that night instead.
  • In Peacemaker Auggie repeatedly compares his surviving son unfavorably to his brother and says he should have been the one that died. What we see of him suggests that had he lived he would have been just as big a disappointment to his father, sharing many of the traits he considers Peacemaker's flaws (such as a love of rock and roll and not being a white supremacist).
  • Soap: Elaine Lefkowitz, Danny's first wife, had this ("Why couldn't it have been you?") said to her by her father after her mother and sister died. This made her distrust everybody and become the spoilt, unlikeable woman that she was when she married Danny (fortunately she becomes nicer). Unfortunately, she dies shortly afterward.
  • In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Shadows of P'Jem", T'Pol takes a phaser shot that's meant for a Jerkass Vulcan captain. As she's being tended to, Shran (who hates Vulcans in general but has started developing a grudging respect for T'Pol) tells the Vulcan, "You should be the one dying, not her."
  • In Supernatural, after Charlie gets killed, Dean takes another level in jerkass and tells his brother Sam: "I think it should be you up there — not her". This is uncharacteristic of Dean, who has previously been criticized for sacrificing anything and any one to keep Sam alive. It is a symptom of the influence the Mark of Cain.
  • In The Vampire Diaries, Damon and Stefan tell Matt he should have died instead of Elena in 4x01.
  • In Two and a Half Men, Bertha reacts to Charlie's death by berating god for taking "the wrong Harper".

  • Eminem: When he was in his late teens, Marshall Bruce Mathers III (Eminem) was told by his mother over the phone that he should've died instead of his beloved uncle Ronnie. On the day of Ronnie's funeral. One part of the song "Cleaning Out My Closet" is dedicated to blasting her for this.
    ''Remember when Ronnie died and you said you wished it was me? Well, guess what, I am dead, dead to you as can be!"

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • On the Comedy Central roast of Donald Trump, Anthony Jeselnik noted the recent passing of long time roaster Greg Giraldo via overdose.
    Jeselnik: It's been a rough year for comedy. Not only did the world lose Greg Giraldo [applause from audience] but even worse, it kept Jeff Ross.
  • The day after Patrice O'neal died, fellow comedian Colin Quinn, while appearing on an impromptu memorial show on SiriusXM's Opie & Anthony, noted that he received several tweets from Patrice's fans wishing that he had died instead. He went on to say that Amy Schumer, who made several jokes at Patrice's expense during Comedy Central's Charlie Sheen roast, received messages stating that they hoped she got ovarian cancer.
    • Also from Schumer at the Sheen roast, she had remarked to Jackass star Steve-O about how he must have felt when his good friend and co-star Ryan Dunn died in a car wreck months earlier that "It could have been me" only for her to say that many people wished it had been him. Cue a large groan from the audience and a shot on Steve's clearly hurt face.

  • In Equivocation by Bill Cain, this colors the relationship between Shag and his daughter Judith: her twin died as a child, and he can't help wishing that she had been the one to die instead.

    Video Games 
  • Tales Series
    • Tales of Symphonia: the Flanoir scene with Zelos has him tell Lloyd about how his mother died in an attack meant for him. His mother's last words really hit the point home: "You should never have been born."
      • A sentiment related to this trope comes up when Pietro escapes from the Asgard-area Human Ranch, only to be reduced to a nearly mindless shell of his former self, and his escape indirectly leads to the Desians attacking and razing Luin, taking the survivors to the ranch. When Sophia is reluctant to have Pietro show the party how to re-enter the human ranch, Sheena angrily reminds her that because of him, many people from Luin lost their lives, and the least he can do is help.
    • Tales of Berseria: The final confrontation with Artorius leads him to tell Velvet that he wished she and Laphicet had died during the first Crimson Night, instead of his wife Celica and their unborn son. Velvet understands, but points out that she knows it would have made no difference. Either way, Artorius would have attempted to go through with his plan of eradicating emotions in humanity; only his reason for doing so would have been their death instead.
  • In .hack//G.U., this happens to Sakubo's player Iori, who is ill in the real world. Frustrated at her son's condition, Iori's mother wished the one who was alive was Iori's stillborn twin sister, Sakura.
  • Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare's Captain Price clearly feels this way about Yuri after Soap's death.
  • There's a bit of this in Dragon Age: Inquisition after The Reveal. Leliana at one point asks the Inquisitor why Divine Justinia died while the Inquisitor lived. The Inquisitor can respond that one of them was going to die in that situation no matter what, and Justinia herself wanted the Inquisitor to live. Leliana takes comfort in the knowledge that Justinia died the way she lived: helping other people.
  • In The Wolf Among Us, Snow White tells Holly about her sister Lily's death. Holly responds with a dejected "It should have been you. It should have been you and it wasn't." She takes it back when she's told that Lily was glamoured to look like Snow White.
  • In Guild Wars 2, Zojja feels this way about Eir Stegalkin, who was in command during a battle that went terribly wrong and resulted in the death of her mentor Snaff.
  • When properly angered, Jedi Master Atris in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords will flat out tell the Exile that Malachor V should have been their grave. You see, she's quite bitter about the Exile disobeying the Jedi Council in the backstory.
  • In God of War (PS4), when Kratos sees a vision of Atreus holding his deceased mother, the latter flat-out admits that he wished that his father is dead instead of her.
  • In Left 4 Dead, in The Sacrifice, Francis may say that it should have been Louis, if Bill, Zoey or himself restart the generator.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: During the final battle between Shuichi and the Audience, it keeps being mentioned that Shuichi should have died instead of Kaede.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: This pushes Shion over the edge in Meakashi-hen, when she thinks that her yakuza family killed her boyfriend and wishes that it had been his little sister instead, whom she never liked anyway. When her Roaring Rampage of Revenge gets to the sister, we get the most disturbing murder scene in the entire series, followed by one of the biggest tearjerkers when she remembers just what said boyfriend's final wish was.
  • In It Lives In The Woods, Noah's mother frequently tells him that he should have died instead of his twin sister Jane ever since they went into Mr. Red's house.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice has this in the DLC case, Turnabout Time Traveler. Pierce wishes Sorin had died in the car accident that killed Sorin's sister (and Pierce's fiancée) Selena instead of her, because Pierce was the surgeon on call at the hospital that day, and Selena insisted that he operate on Sorin first even though she was the more seriously injured of the two.
    • The previous game has a non-familial example. Years ago, Simon Blackquill took the blame for the murder of Metis Cykes so he could protect Athena (an eleven-year-old child) from the setting's Kangaroo Courts. His sister never forgave Athena for her brother's decision, and later tries to kidnap and kill her out of Irrational Hatred. (Simon himself is not pleased.)

  • In Daisy Owl, a fly's memories
  • In Neo-Kosmos, when the station is raided by a pirate vessel, Dr. Xaveria goes to rescue her test subject Tye, but is killed because of it. When her colleague (and Implied Love Interest) Dr. Zehra finds out, she has a complete breakdown:
    Zehra: I wish you had...
    Tye: What?
    Zehra: I told her not to go back... but she had to save her WORK. Do you think you were worth it?! DO YOU, TYE?!
  • Daray of Charby the Vampirate gets this from both his parents after his older brother dies unnecessarily trying to save him from drowning. His father eventually issues a kill on sight bounty on him after he continues to prove himself a disappointment by not following their village's murderously racist traditions.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Girard's attitude to Soon, regarding how their teammate Kraagor was killed sealing the last rift of the Snarl.
      Girard: It should have been you that died in that rift, you cowardly son of a bitch. Allow me to remedy that error now. Say hello to your barnyard gods for me.
    • In the On The Origin of PCs prequel volume, Eugene Greenhilt addresses the "you were an accident" variation to Roy.
    • It's heavily implied that Roy thinks this way of Belkar after Durkon's vampirization, as the "happy ending" illusion in Girard's pyramid has Durkon showing up alive and Belkar dying. For context, when Malack attacked Belkar, Durkon intervened and fought Malack. Durkon lost and was vampirized, while Malack spared Belkar as a final gesture of respect to Durkon.
  • Slightly Damned: Iratu is like this to Buwaro because he blames him for the deaths of both Darius and Sakido, at first being dismissive and rude, after learning why Sakido died apathetic and occasionally violent and it comes to a head when Buwaro brings up Darius, this angers Iratu so much he tries to kill him.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: In one episode Abe tells Homer the "you were an accident" variation while the two are in a car together. Homer stops the car, tells Abe to Get Out!, and drives away. Homer even feels the same way about Bart.
    Marge: You never wanted to have Bart.
    Homer: I know that, but you're not supposed to tell the boy!
    Marge: You tell Bart all the time! You told him this morning!
    Homer: Yeah, but when I do it, it's cute!
    • Agnes Skinner says she wishes her son had died instead of their car. This is typical of their relationship.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Played for Laughs in "Clams", when Mr. Krabs is eaten by a giant clam:
    SpongeBob: Poor Mr. Krabs, gone forever out of our lives. Why couldn't it have been me?!
    Squidward: Yes, why couldn't it have been you?!
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "I Am the Night", Gordon got shot during a raid and Batman blames himself for it because he arrived too late due to it being the anniversary of his parents' death (he was putting two roses at the spot their bodies lay). Later, Batman visits Gordon while in critical condition to apologize for not being there in time, then Bullock appears and agrees with him, and then says maybe the shooter Jazzman would have gotten Batman instead.
  • The Owl House: The season one finale "Young Blood, Old Souls" has Luz declaring to Lilith that she should be the one being petrified instead of Eda (a fate explicitly stated to be permanent) for cursing her when they were young. To her surprise, Lilith admits she's right, the guilt over the situation finally dawning on her.


Video Example(s):



While Faramir is a grown character and, logically, "should've gotten over it by now," Denethor's scathing treatment of him makes it almost impossible for anyone not to sympathize. This factor, combined with a couple of scenes present in the Extended Editions, helps explain why Faramir initially decided to capture Frodo and the Ring, which is the opposite of how he behaves in the novels. It's also notable that the favorite, Boromir, actually admires and defends his younger brother, and is fed up with their father just as much as Faramir is.

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