'How I Met Your Mother' Death Theories: 3 Alternatives to A Morbid Ending

When it comes to the nearly-almost-here How I Met Your Mother series finale, many a question has been raised as to the reasoning behind our narrator, Ted Mosby, has spent nine seasons of a television show explaining to his seemingly bored children how he met their mother. It's been a fun and funny schtick that's kept the CBS show one of their tentpole comedies. And as the seasons have worn on, so have the theories surrounding the "why" part. And as it turns out, the most-discussed theory of Interneters is that The Mother is actually dead, or dying. Which! Is, you know, a pretty sad thought to think (just ask Cristin Milioti).

But it's also not without substance. We won't go into the myriad details that the Internet has unearthed to support this theory (but you can read some of them here), but it's certainly plausible. The biggest nod to this hypothetical being a reality, though, came in last week's episode. During a dinner at the Inn in 2024, Ted and The Mother share a sad, knowing look after discussing the surprise that Robin's mother had arrived to attend her daughter's wedding after all, which elicited the response from The Mother "what sort of mother would miss their own daughter's wedding?" It, of course, sent series fans and conspiracy theorist alike into a tailspin of frothy rage, wholly convincing a lot of folks out there that maybe that hair-brained theory is actually, well, accurate.

Of course we all know that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have had the trajectory for the series in mind since its inception. And they also love to mess with the audience's interpretation of things. So! WE thought: what if The Mother wasn't dead, even after that? And if she isn't what sort of theories would hold up, knowing what we know and seeing what we've seen thus far? We've endeavored to do just that: see if you think it holds up.

To prove that there's a chance The Mother isn't dead, we must first poke holes in the theory that The Mother is dead. Which — to be fair! — is an easy thing to do, because right now the only thing we have to go off is conjecture rolled into a Glenn Beck-style ball of potential hypotheticals genetically engineered to ilicit the feels (most notably the sads).

First, the two most damning pieces of evidence in support: the mother has never been referred to in the present tense during the kids-based flashforwards. And then, of course, the seeming lynchpin from the episode "Vesuvius," wherein The Mother asks Ted "What mother is going to miss her daugther's wedding?" causing Ted to cry. What could explain all this? Well.

Maybe The Mother's Mother Misses Their Wedding

For all the certainty people have placed in that aforementioned moment, it sure is vague as shit. What if they're not talking about Ted and The Mother's daughter, but rather The Mother's mother? This theory is just as likely — and would ilicit the same response from Ted — as the "The Mother Knows She's Going to Die and Miss Her Own Daughter's Wedding" theory.

Could The Mother Have Alzheimers?

This also seems too cruel, to say nothing of the straight-up The Notebookiness of it all (uh, retroactive spoiler alert I guess?), but we know how much people love the darker theories, so it's worth noting. Maybe The Mother won't remember the wedding regardless, which is what caused Ted to tear up? Bleak, bleak shit, but still: no better or worse than any other theories out there.

Or Maybe It's Something Else Entirely! Like The Daughter

The daughter declared she's never getting married? The daughter eloped without their knowledge? Considering we know just as little about the kids' trajectory means literally anything is possible.

Either Way, Bays and Thomas Looove a Red Herring.

As explained by Tampa Bay Times writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne:

the word Vesuvius appeared in the flashforward of the episode “Coming Back,” earlier this season when Ted incorrectly assumed one of the words on his crossword puzzle is Vesuvius. I still had the episode from September on my DVR and checked and sure enough, Ted does say that word out loud, but then discovered that the word didn’t fit.

As is the case with life, the reason the story's been so long and drawn-out hasn't been some sort of set-up for the end, it's been the point. No one writes a show just to get to the end — they write it to parlay feelings, messages, emotional resonance, and entertainment. Because life's happiness springs forth from tragedy — and all the characters have seen tragedy — and how we all get there. This show's title is a red herring in and of itself, because it's never been about how Ted met The Mother, it's been a love letter to his group's friendship. Friends are just as important life partners as lovers (let's be real), and help us become the person we need to be in order to find and accept love. Ultimately, Ted was only ever able to meet The Mother because of his friends and the trials and tribulations he (and the rest — and The Mother!) went through, which is why his life's theorhetical footnotes are just as central — if not more so — to his story than the end-point.