CNN's Anderson Cooper Copes With Grief
The famous journalist has made a career of tracking grief around the globe while drowning out his own feelings of loss – until Hurricane Katrina.
While in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, in which 35,000 of that country's
people perished, CNN reporter Anderson Cooper met a small group of women, each
of whom had lost a loved one to the sea. Cooper envied their ability to talk
through their pain. "I still find myself unable to do it," he writes in
his new memoir, Dispatches From the Edge. "Walking in this
village, listening to these people, is as close as I can come."
From the outside looking in, it would seem that Cooper has led a life of
privilege, not of pain: a child of wealth who grew up in Manhattan's toniest
neighborhoods, the son of successful fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, and a
rising star in the dog-eat-dog world of television journalism. Even so, Cooper
seems to identify most with the grieving, the shell-shocked, and the abandoned,
whether he finds these citizens of loss in Southeast Asia or in his late
father's former stomping grounds, New Orleans.
In fact, Cooper has made a career out of pain: The newsman has reported from
many of the world's most dangerous places. In addition to his tour of Sri
Lanka, he has witnessed the horrors of Bosnia and Rwanda, and has filed
countless stories on human suffering and against-the-odds tales of survival.
But it was only in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -- an American tragedy
that saw the anchor, live on CNN, interrupting authorities, demanding answers,
pummeling bureaucrats with unflinching questions, and fighting tears of enraged
frustration -- that he started to come to terms with his own family's tragedies
and how they have influenced him, on and off camera.
Love and Loss
When Cooper was 10 years old, his father died unexpectedly during heart
surgery. His older brother and only sibling, Carter, killed himself 10 years
later in a surprising jump from the family's 14th-floor balcony window. The
combined loss overwhelmed Cooper and left him numb, he says now. He never
talked about what had happened, not even with his mother. Instead, he found
comfort in reporting on the tragic losses of others, if only to drown out his
"I had cauterized my feelings," he explains. "I wanted to feel
-- to match my pain with what I was witnessing ... at first, I didn't even
realize why I was always covering war. I just felt like a shark that had to
stay in motion in order to live."
Everyone experiences grief in his or her own way, but there are certain
tasks that each person who loses a loved one must undertake, says J. William
Worden, co-director of the Harvard Child Bereavement Study and a professor at
the Rosemead School of Psychology. The first task is accepting that the death