Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 7, 2020. It has since been updated.
Not all families live happily ever after. For some children, their parents become the cause of heartbreak, something they are not able to overcome for the rest of their lives. Kelly Clarkson’s father, instead of being the first hero in her life, became the first man to break her heart. His decisions led to her not just growing up without a father but also without her siblings.
When she was six years old, her father, Stephen Michael, left her mother, Jeanne Taylor, and her family at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, something she’s written about in her song Piece by Piece, as per Nikki Swift. “And all I remember was your back,” Clarkson sings on the song. “Walking towards the airport leaving us all in your past.”
Her parents’ separation broke up her entire family because her single mom was too poor to raise all her kids on her own. During a 2009 interview on Sirius XM Radio, Clarkson revealed that she was the only one who lived with her mom while her sister went to live with their aunt and uncle in North Carolina. Her brother lived with their father in California.
“We couldn’t even afford to call and stuff like that,” Clarkson revealed in the interview. “We were all very poor,” she said, as per Nikki Swift. She didn’t connect with her siblings until a year before she auditioned for American Idol. “The year before I actually auditioned for Idol, my brother got married in Alaska,” she said. “We all met up there…We kept in contact from then on,” she said, adding that this separation didn’t alter their relationship thankfully. “If you saw them, we act exactly the same. It’s like we grew up together,” she said.
However, her relationship with her father was a different matter altogether. She tried and tried to connect with him until it became “humiliating” for her that he never reciprocated. “I know a lot of people go, ‘Aww,’ but it’s not really that situation,” she said. “I think If you don’t grow up with it, it’s hard to miss something you never had,” she said, as per TODAY.
She said that she tried to reconnect multiple times especially for the sake of her older brother but gave up eventually. “Even if it’s not your father, whoever it is in your life, if someone presents such a cancerous environment and then just keeps hurting you, and even if they’re doing it inadvertently and they just don’t know better, you should just not have that person in your life,” she said. “And it’s OK. That’s not a hateful situation. You go your own way.”
When she stopped trying, her father’s behavior left her with a long-lasting lesson. “You’re like, I shouldn’t have to work this hard for someone’s love. Like, that’s a little ridiculous,” she said. “And at that point, too, you grow up so much to where you go, okay, I don’t even think you’re capable (of love),” she said.
Her broken home during childhood continued to stay with her even as she grew up and it became the subject of her songs. Two of her most emotional songs, Piece by Piece and Because of You are about her past.
“A lot of the reason why I wrote Piece by Piece was I guess I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation until I had a child of my own, and until I experienced love like I do with [husband] Brandon on the daily,” Clarkson said. “I guess you don’t realize something is missing until you feel it. I can’t imagine walking away from my little girl. I can’t imagine not having that love anymore. I didn’t know it was missing because I never had it. It was a revelation and that’s why I wrote that song. I think a lot of people go through that,” she said, as per HuffPost.
She was never able to move past the emotional scars left by her father and when he was on his deathbed, she couldn’t make herself pretend that all was well. “My father’s last words were that he wanted all of his kids at his side, but Kelly didn’t show up,” said Clarkson’s half-brother Eric, as per thelifeandtimesofhollywood.com. She also didn’t show up for his funeral. Eric believes that his father wanted to ask her for forgiveness. “I believe my dad wanted to explain to Kelly what happened with their relationship and that he was remorseful and wanted forgiveness,” said Eric.
The Since U Been Gone singer is married to Brandon Blackstock and is a mom to two kids. She’s a strong and fierce mom and doesn’t dwell on the past anymore.