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...
"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
"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.