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.
Love and Loss continued...
"Talking about a loss is a way to make it real," Worden says.
"Part of how you make meaning is by telling others about the loss. ... It
brings the reality home."
Cooper knew this to be true. He had seen others survive by sharing their
suffering, as the grieving widows and mothers did in Sri Lanka. Yet he himself
remained incapable of doing so until he began to write his own story. Since the
beginning of his career he had been planning to write a book; he'd considered
its structure and how it would jump back and forth in time and crisscross the
globe. "It was always about loss -- an exploration of [it] and what other
people have experienced," he says now.
But it took a brutal swipe from nature in the Delta to motivate him to begin
writing. After years spent trying to escape those buried feelings, he landed at
a place that reopened the original wound: New Orleans, a place his father once
The Storm Hits
While covering Hurricane Katrina last September, Cooper found himself
overwhelmed by memories of his father, who had lived in the Big Easy as a
teenager and who had taken Cooper there as a child to visit. He passed his
father's high school, and ran into his dad's former friends. "The past was
all around," says Cooper. "I had forgotten all that, and it came
Cooper's age when his father died, says Worden, is one of the toughest ages
at which to lose a parent, especially a parent of the same sex. And sudden
deaths are particularly difficult.
"Losing a parent at an early age, [kids] are not prepared. Their coping
strategies are not matured," says Worden, author of Children and Grief:
When a Parent Dies. "And sudden deaths are more difficult to wrap
their minds around. There is hurt and often a feeling of the need to protect
oneself against loss. ... If you feel vulnerable and have no resources to talk,
you close down."
Which is just what Cooper did: "For years I tried to swaddle the pain,
encase the feelings. I boxed them up along with [my father's] papers, stored
them away, promising one day to sort it all out," he writes. "All I
managed to do was deaden myself to my feelings, detach myself from life. That
only works for so long."
He put off his pain by being constantly on the move, moving from one tragedy
to the next, like an addiction. He writes of the world's most tumultuous
regions: "The pain was palpable; you breathed it in the air. Back here [in
the United States] no one talked about life and death. No one seemed to
understand. I'd go to movies, see friends, but after a couple of days I'd catch
myself reading plane schedules, looking for something, someplace to