During a CNN interview with Stephen Colbert on Thursday, Anderson Cooper opened up about the recent loss of his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, and the letter Colbert sent him after her death.
“You wrote me a letter after my mom died, and in it you said, ‘I hope you find peace in your grief,’” Cooper said. “One of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about is how we don’t really talk about grief and loss. People aren’t comfortable talking about it.”
Throughout their extended conversation, the pair discussed their respective methods of processing tragedy, and Colbert talked about leaning on his faith after his father and two brothers died in a plane crash when he was 10 years old.
“I don’t want it to have happened,” Colbert said. “I want it to not have happened, but if you are grateful for your life, which I think is a positive thing to do — not everybody is, and I’m not always, but it’s the most positive thing to do — then you have to be grateful for all of it. You can’t pick and choose what you’re grateful for.”
"I was personally shattered, and then you kind of reform yourself in this quiet, grieving world that was created in the house."— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) August 16, 2019
Comedian Stephen Colbert opens up to @andersoncooper about grief and the death of his dad and brothers in a plane crash when he was 10 years old. pic.twitter.com/dUnc5CXSs5
Receiving messages from others, like Colbert, who had experienced grief helped Cooper heal, he said, after his mother died of stomach cancer in June.
“One of the things I’ve found in the last two months since my mom died, are people coming up to me in the street or reaching out to me on Instagram or wherever and sharing their grief and sharing their loss with me, and I’ve found that to be the most helpful thing,” Cooper said. “I’ve found that to be the most powerful and moving thing.”
At one point in the discussion, Colbert’s words about faith and suffering brought Cooper to tears. The CNN anchor had to pause to collect himself while reading the comedian’s comments back to him.
“You went on to say, ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’” Cooper read. “Do you really believe that?”
“Yes,” Colbert said. “It’s a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There’s no escaping that.”
You said "what punishment of gods are not gifts. Do you really believe that?" @andersoncooper, choking back tears, asks Stephen Colbert, as they discuss grief.— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) August 16, 2019
"Yes," replies the comedian. "It's a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There's no escaping that." pic.twitter.com/p5rUUhZKxq
Cooper also recalled Vanderbilt’s own optimistic methods of dealing with grief, which he recognized as one of her “greatest strengths.”
“Despite tragedies and losses, she consciously chose to remain open and vulnerable and optimistic and believing the best in everybody she met,” Cooper said.