Most young girls look up to their fathers and yearn for their unconditional love and attention. It is their dream to have their fathers guide them through their tough days and cheer them when they are down. They look forward to having their father-daughter dance and hope to hold their fingers tights as they walk down the aisle with their father on their big day. American singer Kelly Clarkson hoped to fulfill these dreams as a little girl but these realistic dreams remained a mere fantasy in her life.
Clarkson was just six-years-old when her father, Stephen Michael walked out of her life and abandoned her and her family. Her parents had a messy divorce and Clarkson went to live with her mother while her older brother, Jason, and sister were sent to her father and aunt’s house respectively. Her mother remarried and the young girl was surrounded by her new family. She gained five step-brothers and step-sisters and two younger half-brothers from her dad’s second marriage.
However, young Clarkson wanted nothing more than her father’s love. She even reached out to her father and tried to reconcile their relationship, but the singer was left feeling rejected and broken by Stephen who failed to acknowledge his own daughter and her need for fatherly attention.
She was in pain and at the age of 16, Clarkson began writing the song Because of You, which was then released in 2004. She vented out her heart’s sorrow and misery into an emotional song that talked about her parents’ divorce and her father’s abandonment. “Because of you, I don’t know how to let anyone else in. Because of you, I’m ashamed of my life. Because it’s empty, Because of you, I am afraid,” wrote the talented singer.
In 2002, Clarkson won first-ever American Idol and her life was about to change. Her father who never showed the courtesy to built a relationship with her reached out to her. But again, Clarkson was disappointed. All he wanted to do was to take advantage of her success.
In 2015, she opened about her emotional pain through the song Piece By Piece. Pregnant with her first child with husband, Brandon Blackstock, she recalled the memories of her dad and sang , “I traveled fifteen hundred miles to see you. I begged you to want me, but you didn’t want to. I made something of myself and now you want to come back. But your love isn’t free, it has to be earned. Back then I didn’t have anything you needed, so I was worthless.”
She sang she was glad she married Blackstock who was never going to be like her father. “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 Brandon on the daily,” said the 37-year-old.
Being a mother of two, she added, “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.”
However, as years went by she stopped trying to get back the relationship with her dad. In 2016, she said, “It’s more of that thing where you can try your hardest to salvage relationships—and I did—but at the end of the day, if you keep getting hurt by someone because they just don’t know how to properly love people, it’s just not worth it. It’s not worth the strain in your heart and it starts to bleed into your other relationships and it becomes super dysfunctional.”
In an interview in November 2017, the singer said, “I think if you don’t grow up with it, it’s hard to miss something you never had.” The three-time Grammy winner added, “You’re like, I shouldn’t have to work this hard for someone’s love. Like, that’s a little ridiculous And at that point, too, you grow up so much to where you go, okay, I don’t even think you’re capable..” She said she felt humiliated by her father’s rejections and discouraged herself from trying anymore. She openly talked about her strained relationship with her father and argued it was important to move on.
“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.”
While Clarkson has moved past the emotional struggle, she feels sad for her father who missed the opportunity to know her children. However, she still does not resent the man who never loved her. “In fairness to him, I don’t know his life, how he grew up, and I don’t know if he’s repeating a cycle that was once taught to him,” she said. “I have no hatefulness. No anger. No nothing, about it.” She added, “I don’t understand it for me, but I understand the depth of what that is—having a child—now, and he’s made me want to be that much more present in my family.”
The singer confirmed her father’s death in an interview with Forbes in February 2019.