Meaning of “Helena” by My Chemical Romance

Written By Michael Miller

Michael is a music teacher and professional cellist. He loves uncovering the deeper meaning of popular songs.

So you’re curious about “Helena” by My Chemical Romance? Good choice! This song is a eulogy for loss, tackling the emotional rollercoaster that comes with saying goodbye to a loved one. Written by Gerard Way, the lead vocalist, the song is inspired by the death of his grandmother, Elena. It delves into the guilt, sadness, and sometimes relief we feel when someone we care about passes away.

“Helena” strikes a chord, quite literally, with anyone who’s dealt with loss, asking questions like “What’s the worst that I can say? Things are better if I stay,” suggesting the complex emotional battles we face when dealing with death.

Hungry for more? Stick around as we dig deeper into this iconic emo anthem, unpacking each lyric to find what really makes “Helena” so moving.

“Helena” Lyrics Meaning

Let’s kick off with the opening lines: “Long ago, Just like the Hearse you die to get in again, We are so far from you.” The Hearse symbolizes death, but it’s more than that. The phrase “you die to get in again” brings a cyclical element to death, as if it’s a door we pass through more than once. Gerard Way starts off by telling us that the distance—both emotional and physical—has grown between him and his grandmother since her passing.

Then we move on to “Burning on, Just like the match you strike to incinerate, The lives of everyone you know.” Fire, another powerful symbol, represents transformation. The match that ignites can transform everything it touches, much like the impact Elena had on those around her. In a way, her passing ‘incinerates’ the old lives of her family, forcing them into a new emotional state.

“What’s the worst you take, From every heart you break?” Here, we get a glimpse of the inner guilt and questioning that comes after losing someone. Was I good enough? Did I do enough? It’s as if the departed takes a piece of everyone’s heart with them, leaving a permanent ‘stain’ or scar.

“What’s the worst that I can say? Things are better if I stay. So long and goodnight.” This refrain sums up the conflicting emotions we often feel when we lose someone. Would it be better if I were gone too? Is it okay to feel relieved that their suffering is over? Gerard Way captures the dichotomy perfectly—making the song a bittersweet ode to Elena, and to loss in general.

Well, if you think we’ve uncovered it all, think again. There’s a lot to unpack here, but we’ve got to pause for a moment.

Why Was “Helena” Written?

Background information is key to truly understanding a song. When Gerard Way wrote “Helena,” he was dealing with his grandmother’s death but also wrestling with newfound fame and the pressures of being in a band that had exploded onto the scene. The song is not just an emotional outlet but also a creative manifestation of his complicated feelings at that time. Way was grappling with existential questions that so often plague us during life-altering moments. And let’s not forget, the My Chemical Romance frontman has a flair for the dramatic, turning his internal struggle into a musical spectacle that touches all who listen.