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Anderson Cooper on the letter Stephen Colbert sent him after Gloria Vanderbilt’s death

Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, at the premiere of an HBO documentary about her in 2016. (Dennis Van Tine / TNS)
Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, at the premiere of an HBO documentary about her in 2016. (Dennis Van Tine / TNS)
By Christi Carras Los Angeles Times

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.”

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.”

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