Kelly Clarkson’s Triumphant Song Brings Everyone to Tears

Confession: I am obsessed with this song.

Kelly Clarkson returned to the American Idol stage as a guest judge last week in a live show. She was feisty, funny and kind to every performer who took the stage. She killed it in that role.

But what did me in was her song, “Piece by Piece,” performed at the end of the show.

Pain is not an instrument a child should be forced to play. But for Clarkson and countless others it was. And is.

Clarkson, who have been abandoned by a parent as Clarkson was by her father when she was six years old. Seven months preganant and center stage, she sang:

“And all I remember is your back,

walking towards the airport leaving us all in your past.

I drive 1500 miles to see you.

I begged you to want me but you didn’t want to.”

Her raw emotions poured out and clearly touched judges, audience members and anyone who watched from home or later online. The intensity was poignant, palpable and powerful.

“I think a lot of people will relate to it, unfortunately, but maybe you won’t feel alone,” she said, about this song.

Kelly Clarkson was living out of her car when she auditioned for American Idol at the start of her career. And though she “made something” of herself as she sang in her song that doesn’t mean the pain of the past is gone.

Clarkson put words to an experience many of us share. And as intended, made us feel less alone.

My Facebook feed lit up with talk about her performance. There were a a boatload of teary and triumphant middle-aged mothers, like myself, sharing and bonding.

We cyber sobbed over this song.

We know how much work must be done to attend to, attune with and attach to our children (and selves). We know the daily acts of parenting and partnership can be hard and mysterious when we don’t have instructs, a map or memories we can call upon to guide us. We must find new ways to experience and experience and teach love, safety, trust and discipline.

She sang for those of us determined to learn from our history rather than repeat it.

Piece by piee, I fell far from the tree.

I will never leaver her like you left me

She will never wonder her worth,

Unlike you I’m goinna put her first.

Change is the cycle I want to repeat. Love is the legacy I want to leave.

My father was gone before my third birthday. He left broken bones and promises and hearts. As a child, I felt gutted, bereft, pained and confused.

But this piece isn’t about my story, which like this song is far more than sad.

Make no mistake about it – “Piece by Piece” is a survival song.

It’s study, strong and defiant without minimizing pain.

The song is a tribute to learning how to love, as an adult, while carrying the pain and betrayal of childhood wounds.

Even though Clarkson is super successful performer now in Hollywood who seems happy in her career, marriage and parenting, she was once a hurt child.

And hurt hurts no matter who you become and are.

She had to beg for her father to love her and it sounds he didn’t until she was a successful adult.

She sang:

“And all of your words, they fall flat.

I made something of myself adnnow you want to come back.

But your love it isn’t free – it has to be earned.

Back then I didn’t have anyhting you needed so I was – worthless.

Piece by piece he collected me off the ground where you abandoned things

Piece by piece he filled the holes That you bruned in me at six years old.

Clarkson didn’t make light of the past or minimize the pain she felt as a child. She’s impacted by the past.  We all are and that’s true whether the past is an upbeat tempo or a haunting ballad.

The past is the default song that plays inside of us until we get a new song playing instead.

Yet, we live in a culture where pretending the past doesn’t hurt or we are over it is celebrated. People who can’t let go of being cut off in traffic pressure adult children to let go of hurt or anger about being abandoned, betrayed or decimated by a powerful parent as a dependent child.

It’s mind-boggling when study after study (  shows that toxic childhood stress shapes our physical and mental health for our entire lives. Those with numerous types of childhood adversity have doubles the rate of heart disease and die, on average, nineteen years earlier than those without adversity prior to the age of eighteen. The impact isn’t only on persnality or perspective but life span itself.

It’s not about dwelling in the past it’s about limiting the impact it has so we can be present and have a future.

Clarkson sang:

Piece by piece he collected me off the ground where you abandoned things

Piece by piece he filled the holes That you bruned in me at six years old.

Wounds inflicted by parents can’t be erased from pscyhe, soul and cells. For a child, abuse and abandonment rip at the core. They hurt, bewilder, stung, sting, confuse and damage.

Adults know things such as “hurt people hurt people” and no one sane, heathy or well chooses violence, addictiona and abandonment. Children who can’t yet walk, stand, do fraction or spell “cat” have no such ability to do adult reasoning.

Being real about and reckoning with early trauma is actually healthy, necessary and good for our health and our parenting.

We can’t learn what to do right until we are clear about what is wrong. We can’t create new traditions until we retire old ones even if they are learned in our family.

We have to reckon with what wrong to make it right which takes tools and skills and bravery. And it’s a relief to hear a pop song that “gets it” so deeply and intuitively.

Old pain can still cut fresh and unnunanced. That’s just life. We saw this in Clarkson during a live performance. Her voice cracked and she couldn’t finish some lines even though she’s a seasoned performer.

But the tearjerker parts weren’t about sorrow and betrayal. What moved her (and us) when she let us into her heart, is the love she now feels.

It’s tender, soft and trusting.

That’s holy, sacred and transcendent.

That’s not sad. That’s hope and change.

She is strong, defiant and determined.

The words she had the most difficulty singing were these.

She will never have to wonder her worth

because unlike you I’m gonna put her first.

You know, he’ll never walk away, he’ll never break her heart, he’ll take care of things.

He’s love her

Piece by piece, he’ll restore my faith

That a man can be kind

and a father should be great.

She admits her faith is still being restored. That takes time and repetition.

But this is not a sad song. Not really. It’s real and raw and tender and truthful.

I ugly cried for her beautiful healing, partnering and parenting. The journey to live, love and parent well after going through hell can be arduous even for a superstar. She’s brave not to speak about the past but to attempt to trust love in the now.

It’s hard to parent well without a map and when we cut off on new unpaved paths sometimes we get twigs across the face and trip on logs and land flat on our face or ass. I hope hope she has tools and skills to match hopes and intentions.

No mater what I celebrate her attempt. It matters. We need to support anyone doing break-the-cycle parenting.

And break-the-cycle adulting.

Nothing is more meaningful, important or necessary.

This is an ally song. I’m grateful she used her voice not only to sing but to speak out.

I’ve listened to this song over and over and over again. The words are melancholy and nurturing, pained and empowering. They resonate. I can relate.

Piece by piece is a lullaby and a rallying cry combined.

It’s about choosing love and health and nurturing family and learning how to trust, love and stay.

Which is hard and wonderful.

Difficult and possible.

We do it together. With love. In Safety. With help. Over time.

Piece by piece.face of abandonment

P.S. I dare you not to lose your sh*t watching this video.And here is a bit more of her behind-the-scenes comments about the song.

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