I would like to start this post with a disclaimer. Although I am a mental health professional in training, I am not an expert. I was not an investigator on this case. I did not follow Aaron Hernandez’s life or football career. I knew nothing about this story prior to the documentary. Since watching, I have done some further research, but other than that, I am only here to offer an opinion and a different perspective of a tragedy that occurred in our society. I felt extremely inclined to chime in on this heavy topic because I am deeply concerned with the public’s reaction to who Aaron Hernandez was.
I don’t care to defend a celebrity who may or may not have killed people. It is not my intention to excuse his actions or depreciate the lives of those that were taken. However, what I care to defend in this moment is the innocent child who once was. The one who had no choice in who would raise him, who would love him, who would hurt him, or who would leave him.
I care to defend children like little Aaron, whose father abused him and who was sexually abused by someone who was supposed to care for him.
I care to defend the teenager who was never given the proper guidance and help he so desperately needed, to heal from the abuse and trauma of his life. Whose father passed away and whose mother didn’t tend to her grieving child’s needs, but moved on and brought another man into their home.
I care to defend the adult that was never given the tools to cope with strong emotions and tremendous life stressors. Who was thrown into a life of fame and money at a young age—not knowing how to properly express his frustrations. And who suffered from a severe brain disease.
I care to speak against the people who throw the word “psychopath” around to shame those with mental illnesses. Those who choose to ignore the bigger picture and show absolutely no empathy for other humans.
Empathy can be a quite a blessing and equally a curse. In my field it is completely necessary, and all at once completely exhausting. As I watched the documentary, my emotions were bouncing off the walls and through the roof. I had a feeling in my chest, that has yet to let up. Sorrow. Almost tangible sorrow. I am not a fan of the Patriots; I didn’t even know who this man was, but my heart ached for him. Not because he was gorgeous (and that, I do believe). Not because he was a father. And not because anyone deserved what came to them. I couldn’t really put my finger on it, until I recently looked at my 3-year-old boy, and there it was. The same low haircut and beautiful dimpled smile. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and again my heart ached for Aaron. Not “the killer inside,” but the little boy he used to be before the world ruined his life.
There is so much more I could say about the documentary and the agenda of producers, or the ridiculous speculations that came from all of this. Or how this case became a feeding frenzy for the media and much more interesting for Hernandez to be in the spotlight, and for them to convict the man who came from nothing, finally made it, and then seemingly just “threw it all away.” I have many opinions, of which I am sure there are many rebuttals. So, I will spare us all the debate and leave you with this:
I cannot help Aaron Hernandez; it’s too late for that. But I see an opportunity to raise awareness and to defend mental health, in hopes that more people will make it their personal mission to create a better life for the children they are responsible for. To help them become healthy adults, and begin to break the vicious cycle of abuse, trauma, and hopelessness in today’s generation and those to come.
If we can’t prevent the trauma, we MUST help them process it. Anchor your children in faith and love. Whether they become a famous athlete, a doctor, a lawyer, or a teacher, they will be faced with challenging situations. The difference between whether they persevere or falter, in large part, is in the way you have prepared them. This is our responsibility. Please, take it personally. Take it seriously. As if their lives depend on it…because they do.