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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 called home.

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 rushing back."

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 go."

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