“Death Of A Hero” And Its Connections To Loss Of Childhood


Image via Genius

Aubrie Sandoval, Writer

As some general background information, I’m 18 years old and like 4 months away from graduating, so some of these feelings and thoughts might not apply to you. We all grew up differently as well. So take this with a grain of salt, as it means virtually nothing in the grand scheme of things. 

Moving right along. When I first listened to “Death of a Hero” by Alec Benjamin, it felt a lot like being understood, like people somehow, somewhere, went through something that made them feel let down, disappointed, and overall disconnected from their own small child self, which is what I believe the meaning of the line “I saw through all the magic” is.  This means that they also understood what letting go of childhood is like. If you’ve read any of my previous articles, then you’re probably aware of how my grandpa passed away to cancer. Watching someone die from terminal liver cancer was hard, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to watch. 

Before he knew he had cancer and we knew we wouldn’t have much time left with him, I thought that the most disappointing things had already happened, that I was grown and that I would be fine without him. That I was ready. Spoiler, I wasn’t. No one is ever ready for someone they love to die, you can’t prepare for it. It just kind of happens one day and you just have to roll with it. I know not everyone has lost someone to death, but we have all lost something. If you have lost anything, and it has caused you to grow up, you can relate to this song. You can relate it to how it felt to know that childhood was over. Unless you are a child or haven’t experienced this moment, the moment where you know you aren’t really a kid anymore. 

Personally, this moment for me was when I was told my grandpa wasn’t going forward with chemo anymore. His numbers weren’t going down, and he was just shrinking. My grandpa was tired, so he decided it was time. The last time I saw him awake and lucid, he told my brother he was going to crap out. It amazes me that someone can just know. Don’t get me wrong, he held on for days after that in a coma out of sheer frustration that so many people were there, but he knew. He knew it was time and let go. I didn’t hold his hand. Before he passed, I told my mom that I didn’t want to, and I was telling the truth but I left out why. The simple answer was because I was scared. The more complicated answer was I didn’t want him to go while I was holding his hand. I didn’t spend a lot of time with him during those days. I don’t think any of us slept either, but we made it through. That’s when I knew childhood was over. That’s when I grew up. 

There’s a line in the song that goes “that night I put my youth in a casket and buried it inside of me” that I think we should talk about. When someone is traumatized, they will naturally put those feelings inside of themselves and hide them away until they have a moment to let go. They do this so that they can find a moment where there are not a million things happening, your brain will jump in to protect you and keep you from really feeling it until you can survive it, which I think is the meaning of the lyrics. They mean that when a child is traumatized, they will forget it happened entirely because they aren’t ready for those memories and the feelings that come from them. Another thing that amazes me is that when we eventually do start healing is that we will remember things freshly. Like we’re still there like it happened two seconds ago instead of 2 years ago. Once we’ve gone through something traumatizing we change, and there isn’t really something to go back on. Who you are now, isn’t the same as who you were a month ago and it never will be. After you’ve learned a lesson and changed, nothing but the foundation of who you are remains. 

The song in general can apply heavily to growing up and how things like trauma and disappointment and heavy instances can cause one to grow as a person. However, if someone was to look a little deeper, the lyrics can be applied more directly. We’ve gone over the metaphorical death of our younger selves and how once we’re different, that’s the end of the line for that version of yourself, I think we can take it another step further and talk about how the line “I tried to look away but you can’t look away from a train wreck” applies. It’s more of how people around you react to you not being the same, but the principles are the same. They also grieve who you were. Not as personally as you but they do, they loved that person and now they have to say goodbye. The transition is by no means smooth and does kind of feel like the mess of a trainwreck. These people will work to see how you changed, but not necessarily why. The meaning is practically see-through. People will stop to look at a car accident but will only help if it seems like no one else is. If there’s already someone there calling 911, what’s the point of really helping out? People love to snoop but if it comes down to it, they will stand back and wait for you to figure it out, or someone else, anyone but them really. That’s part of growing up though, putting yourself in a place where you are capable of learning from the mistakes and how to troubleshoot, problem-solve, whatever you want to call it. Sometimes in order to be someone better, you have to see the people waiting for you to figure it out. We can’t be train wrecks forever.

As always, we’ve arrived at the end of the article, which is normally used as a way to put a pretty bow on the wrapping. The only wrapping I can think of is that growing up doesn’t have to emotionally cripple you forever. Grief, trauma, disappointment, it all helps you become someone new, if you allow it to wash over you, it won’t take anything more from you. I don’t know you, or what you’ve been through, but if you need someone to understand, just know that I do. “Death of a Hero” doesn’t have to just signify the tragedy that is our lost childhood.