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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.

The Storm Hits continued...

Wherever he landed, others' tragedies made his seem less significant. Surveying the carnage after the tsunami and talking with its survivors, he says, "It's a strange calculus of survival. I've lost two people. They've lost whole families; they don't even have any pictures left."

For psychologist/author Worden, that type of reflection is often healthy -- especially for a child. When a young person suddenly loses a parent, it is often as if his whole world has collapsed. Later, witnessing greater suffering can "give perspective on his own pain ... and it's helpful to see that others survived."

It shows the child that he can, as well.

Living With Grief

As a boy, Cooper reacted to his father's death not only by closing himself off to the world but also by determining to become absolutely self-reliant: He wanted to prepare himself for future losses. He took survivalist courses while in high school, earned his own money despite being born to wealth, and made his own way in his career, starting as a fact-checker, then working as a freelance journalist, traveling alone with a fake press pass to cover conflicts in faraway places like Burma and Bosnia. He often reflected on survival, both others' and his own.

"I wanted to know why some survived and some didn't," he says.

After reporting from Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, Cooper had seen enough death. He took a job as a correspondent for ABC, working mostly in the United States, "which was fine by me," he writes. "I needed to stop searching the world for feeling. I needed to find it closer to home."

And find it he did, with Katrina. After returning from New Orleans to New York, he spent the next five months writing the book. Monday through Friday, he wrote from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., then went to CNN, where he worked until midnight. He went to sleep at 2:30 in the morning. When he woke up, he'd start again. On weekends, he wrote nonstop.

"I wanted to get it all out before I forgot it," he says. "It was a hard thing to write. ... I stayed focused on the sentences, how the words go together -- all very clinical. In some ways that's easier, because you're not affected by what you are writing. But then you tell the stories and relive what you are writing."

The book was published in May 2006, 18 years after his brother's death and 28 years after his father's.

"An assumption one cannot make is that grief ever ends," says Kenneth Doka, author of Living With Grief: Who We Are and How We Grieve and a professor of gerontology at the College of New Rochelle. "You have to live with it. But over time, bad days are fewer and farther between."

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