How Do We Tell Our Kids the Black Panther Has Died?

I’ve mourned many of my heroes. It never gets easier.

Miles Marshall Lewis
Published in
4 min readAug 31, 2020


Chadwick Boseman
Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Disney/Getty Images

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“Chadwick Boseman died,” I said. I kept it simple and direct. I didn’t know how else to deliver the news to my sons, ages 12 and 14. How do we explain to our kids that their hero in real life is no more?

It just so happened that my boys were sprawled on the sofa, watching Guardians of the Galaxy, another film in the Marvel Comics universe. We take our love for all things Marvel very seriously in this house. And I had to tell them that the man who had played T’Challa, the Black Panther, in four Marvel films, was gone.

“What happened to him?” my oldest son asked.

“He had colon cancer.”

They both fell silent, wide-eyed and stunned. I sat and waited; I didn’t expect waterworks or theatrics, but I remained close, just in case. My oldest stood up, his face flat, and went to his room to post his thoughts on Instagram — the Generation Z version of attending a memorial service. My younger son took his brother’s space on the couch and zoned out to Guardians.

Unlike me, my sons seem to compartmentalize death. When my heroes passed away, I wept openly; when they lost their own, they were saddened but not shattered.

When I grieved for Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, and Prince, I was grieving for myself, for my connection to that person. The past 48 hours have been different for many of us. After feeling the sharp pain of losing Boseman at such a young age, we immediately had to switch to locating that pain in our children — and trying to heal it as best we could.

My own father was one of the first to tell me about Boseman’s death, minutes after my younger brother had broken the news to me. I could tell my dad had the same thoughts about telling me that I had about telling my boys. I’m nearly 50 years old, and yet my father still wondered: How will I tell my son that his hero is gone?

One friend told me that his 12-year-old daughter barely comprehended the separation between Boseman and his iconic character. She asked her dad…



Miles Marshall Lewis
Writer for

MML’s writing has appeared in GQ, The New York Times, Rolling Stone and many other outlets. His book on Dave Chappelle drops in 2024 from St. Martin’s Press.