The sacrifice a hero makes leads to them growing as a character as it teaches them a life lesson or important truth. When Dorothy gives up Oz to return to Kansas, she learns to value her simple life. After Obi-Wan's death, both Luke and Han are inspired to accept their heroic roles. Rango's sacrifice of his tough guy persona revealed to him that he is indeed a hero. This is sometimes referred to as an epiphany moment and can come right before or right after getting the macguffin, though it always follows the sacrifice.
But what if the hero's dead? In this case, the outer growth occurs among the surviving companions, who move to carry on the hero's legacy. John Miller's death made the titular Private Ryan less of a selfish jerk. Furiosa's sacrifice and near death inspire Mad Max to allow himself to connect to others. Superman's death at the hands of Doomsday inspires a generation of heroes to rise.
This is the trick of the quest: the macguffin is an important, but it's typically just a vehicle for the epiphany. The themes of quest stories revolve around the epiphanies and how characters change more than the macguffin, which is simply a plot contrivance to get the quest started. The cliche is actually true here: it's about the journey, not the destination.
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