February 29, 2016

Kelly Clarkson’s Triumphant Song Brings Everyone to Tears. {Video}

kelly clarkson piece by piece

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 still is.

Clarkson was abandoned by her father when she was six years old. Seven months pregnant and center stage, she sang:

And all I remember is your back

Walking towards the airport leaving us all in your past

I traveled 1500 miles to see you

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. 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 own Facebook feed lit up with talk about her performance. There were 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 it is to attend, attach and attune to our children. We know the daily acts of parenting can be hard when we don’t have instructions, a map or memories we can call upon to guide us, but we must find new ways to 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 piece, I fell far from the tree

I would never leave her like you left me

She will never wonder her worth

Because unlike you I’m gonna 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. But my story, like this song, is about far more than that loss. 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 a 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 who you are today.

She had to beg for her father to love her and we can speculate that he didn’t until she was a successful adult.

She sang:

And all of your words, they fall flat

I made something of myself and now you want to come back

But your love it isn’t free

It has to be earned

Back then I didn’t have anything you needed

So I was worthless

Piece by piece you collected me

Up off the ground but you abandoned things

Piece by piece he filled the holes that you burned 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 that 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 double 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 you collected me

Up off the ground but you abandoned things

Piece by piece he filled the holes that you burned in me

At six years old.

Wounds inflicted by parents can’t be erased from psyche, 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, addiction and abandonment. Children who can’t yet walk, stand, do fractions 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 is 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 her willingness to be vulnerable made it easy for us to love her and feel compassion for our own tender pain too.

And this was not just a sob song about sorrow and betrayal. Though her story moved her (and us) to tears, she was also strong, defiant and determined.

And soft, tender and trusting.

Notice that the words that caught in her throat were not directed towards her father, but her husband and children and in celebration about what in her life is already different.

These were the words she had the most difficulty singing about the new way her daughter will be parented. She sang:

She will never have to wonder her worth

Because unlike you I’m gonna put her first

He’ll never walk away

He’ll never break her heart

He’ll take care of things

He’ll love her

Piece by piece

He restored my faith

That a man can be kind

And a father should be great


That is breaking the cycle and it is sacred, holy, transcendent and hopeful.

This is not a sad song. Not really.

It’s real and raw and tender and truthful.

I cried for her beautiful artsy, healing, partnering and parenting. The journey to live, love and parent well after going through h*ll can be arduous, even for a superstar.

We know 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 a*s. We celebrate with her. We hope her hopes and intentions are matched with the skills and tools she needs.

And we know the attempt matters. It’s the only way to make changes. Nothing is more meaningful, important or necessary.

We feel her words and for her but mostly, we are inspired. She is gutsy and honest amd strong and sturdy. This is an ally song. She used the gift of her voice not only to sing but to speak up for children who have been hurt or betrayed by a parent.

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

“Piece by Piece” is a lullaby and a rallying cry combined in one.

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

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

Piece by piece.

P.S. I dare you not to lose your sh*t watching this video.


Author: Cis White

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

Image: YouTube still

Read 3 Comments and Reply

Read 3 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Christine "Cissy" White  |  Contribution: 7,600