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November 17, 2023

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper hadnֱt planned to continue his podcast on grief and loss. But while going through his late fatherֱs papers, he discovered something that ֱchanged (his) life.ֱ

ֱI thought I was just going through my momֱs boxes to organize them, but what I opened up was hidden boxes of grief that Iֱd stored away, that Iֱd buried when I was 10 years old, and I canֱt just keep it all stored away,ֱ Cooper tells listeners in the , which released Thursday. ֱIt made me realize how little I understood grief and how much more I need to learn.ֱ

Season two of ֱAll There Is with Anderson Cooperֱ will premiere Nov. 29, with new episodes being released on a weekly basis. Cooper has already shared that President Joe Biden, who has spoken openly about how the loss of his first wife and two of his children has shaped his life, will be a guest on the second season.

In anticipation of the new season, here are three things you should know about Cooper ֱ who will receive the ֱ Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism at the instituteֱs Bowtie Ball this Saturday ֱ and the first season of his podcast.

Cooper didnֱt expect to start a podcast

The first episode of the podcast starts with a recording Cooper made entering the apartment of his late mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt died in July 2019 at the age of 95, and as Cooper went through her things, he started to narrate himself through the situation.

ֱItֱs something Iֱve done in my head a lot, like distance myself from something to narrate,ֱ Cooper told CNN anchor and correspondent Audie Cornish in a of her podcast ֱThe Assignment.ֱ ֱThatֱs how I started making recordings and then decided that itֱs ridiculous that I donֱt know anybody else whoֱs talked about going through their parentsֱ stuff. And I donֱt know who to even call to talk about going through my momֱs stuff. And so I thought I should just start doing that.ֱ

As Cooper goes through his motherֱs belongings, he also finds objects that had once belonged to his father, who died of a heart attack when Cooper was 10, and his brother, who died by suicide when Cooper was 21.

Losing his mother, Cooper says in the episode, meant losing the last person from the family he grew up in. But in his familyֱs belongings and writings, he feels their presence again.

ֱBut what do I do with all these things? I need to learn something from all this. I mean, this canֱt be it. This canֱt be all there is,ֱ Cooper says. ֱSomewhere in these notes and these boxes that I got to go through, I hope to find something that helps me to, to make sense of all this, that eases the pain of their absence. And I want to talk to other people who have experienced loss as well to hear what they’ve learned and how they survived.ֱ

Cooperֱs losses have driven his journalism

Cooper, who has worked in journalism for more than 30 years, made a name for himself through his overseas coverage. Since the start of his career, he has covered conflicts in a number of regions across the world.

That was intentional, Cooper reveals in the first episode of his podcast. After his fatherֱs and brotherֱs deaths, he withdrew deep into himself.

ֱI felt like I couldn’t speak the same language as other people,ֱ Cooper says. ֱAnd I ended up heading to Somalia and then Bosnia, South Africa and Rwanda ֱ places where the language of loss was spoken. And the pain that I was feeling inside was matched by the pain all around me. And I think that’s how I learned how to survive.ֱ

In subsequent episodes, Cooper further reflects on how losing his father and brother at such a young age shaped his career. There was a rage ֱ ֱthe rage of a child whoֱs lost a parentֱ ֱ that caused him to throw himself into his work and a desire to come into contact with ֱthe most overwhelming of emotions, anger and violence and all sorts of things.ֱ

ֱThe old saw on people who go to report on war stuff is that theyֱre adrenaline junkies. That does not feel like something that I was doing,ֱ Cooper said. ֱBut I do understand wanting to expose myself to the rawest, most overwhelming of feelings.ֱ

The podcast also explores othersֱ losses

Most of the eight episodes that make up season one feature Cooper in conversation with a guest who has also experienced loss. In the second episode, he follows up on a he had with comedian Stephen Colbert about grief.

Colbert was on the ֱdoorstep of middle ageֱ when he realized he was grateful for the pain of the grief he experienced after losing his father and two brothers at the age of 10.

ֱIt doesn’t take the pain away. It doesn’t make the grief less profound. In some ways, it makes it more profound because it allows you to look at it,ֱ Colbert tells Cooper in the second episode. ֱIt allows you to examine your grief in a way that it is not like holding up a red hot ember in your hands, but rather seeing that pain as something that can warm you and light your knowledge of what other people might be going through.ֱ

Other guests include actor Molly Shannon, artist Laurie Anderson, poet Elizabeth Alexander and more. Some lost loved ones early in life; others reflect on more recent losses. One conversation, with filmmaker Kirsten Johnson, centers on the idea of ֱanticipatory griefֱ ֱ feelings of grief before the loss actually occurs.

Cooper closes many of his conversations by asking guests to share their advice for other people who are grieving, and in the last episode of the season, he gathers messages from listeners who have also experienced loss.

ֱI started making recordings while going through my momֱs things as a way to feel less alone and listening to your messages, I donֱt just feel less alone ֱ I know Iֱm not alone,ֱ Cooper says in the last episode. ֱI know that none of us are. We are floating in an ocean of loss.ֱ

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Angela Fu is a reporter for ֱ. She can be reached at afu@poynter.org or on Twitter @angelanfu.
Angela Fu

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