Skip to content

Health & Balance

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.
Font Size
A
A
A

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 has happened.

"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.

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
 
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
 
jet plane landing at sunset
Slideshow
poinsettias
Quiz
 
Hungover man
Slideshow
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Slideshow
 
Woman worn out on couch
Article
Happy and sad faces
Quiz
 
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
Article
laughing family
Quiz