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Anderson Cooper on freeing yourself from the burden of grief

Anderson Cooper on freeing yourself from the burden of grief
Anderson Cooper on freeing yourself from the burden of grief 02:41

As the year draws to a close and we think of those we've left behind, it seems the right time to consider the question of grief. Anderson Cooper's CNN podcast is called "All There Is," and it asks, do we move on from grief, or do we simply learn to live with it? He shares some thoughts with us:

"Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be." Joan Didion wrote that, and boy, was she right. It's nothing we expect, and it's different for everyone.

I've spent much of my career as a reporter, in wars and disasters, stepping into other people's grief. But I've also spent most of my life running away from my own. And I haven't gotten very far.

The last few years I've been going through dozens of boxes of photos and papers that belonged to my mom, Gloria Vanderbilt, who died in 2019, and to my Dad, Wyatt, who died when I was 10, and to my brother, Carter, who died by suicide when I was 21.

A family photo of a young Anderson Cooper with his father, Wyatt; brother Carter; and mother, Gloria Vanderbilt.  CBS News

I'm the last one left from the little family I was born into – the last one who remembers our stories and the life we shared. I've found letters and journals, old seating charts for dinner parties, postcards from Truman Capote, even telegrams from Frank Sinatra, whom my mom was dating in the 1950s.

Sifting through these boxes, these memories, it's been overwhelming, and lonely, and I am not sure what I'm supposed to do with it all. I can't just get rid of these things; it's all that's left of them. And I'm not ready to let them go.

The truth is, none of us is alone in our grief, though it certainly feels like we are. The path we are on is well-traveled. The person sitting next to you on the subway, or in a cubicle at work - everyone has felt the pain of loss, or will. It is a bond we can share, but we rarely do. Instead we shroud grief in silence. 

Why is it so hard to talk about? Why must we keep it hidden away - crying in private, speaking the names of our loved ones in hushed whispers only we can hear? I've done that my whole life, and the price I've paid is high.

When you bury your grief to mute your sadness, you mute your ability to feel joy as well. You can't have one without the other, and I see that now.

Talking about grief and hearing from others who are living with grief as well, it's the one thing I've found that's helped me feel less frozen by it, and less alone in it. 

I'm not a fan of New Year's resolutions, but this year I'm going to try and give up carrying my grief in silence. I've been doing that since I was 10 years old … and the weight of it is just too much to bear.

Listen to "All There Is with Anderson Cooper: Facing Our Grief":

For more info:

Story produced by Amol Mhatre. Editor: Karen Brenner. 

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