Grief fundamentally changes everyone, even celebrities like Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert
One of the worst parts of grief is how isolating it can feel. Our society is conditioned to feel uncomfortable talking about that kind of loss and pain, which only adds to the burden people have to carry when they’re going through it. That’s just one small part of how profound a new interview between Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert is — they’re both incredibly open about the losses they’ve suffered, both as kids and in more recent years, and how grief has shaped them into the men they are today.
Colbert was a guest on Anderson Cooper 360 last week, where he shared a story few people know: His father and two older brothers were killed in a plane crash. Cooper also lost his father at age 10.
“It changed the trajectory of my life. I’m a different person than I feel like I was meant to be,” Cooper said about his grief.
Everyone who has experienced that kind of loss is familiar with that feeling. It divides your life into two parts: Before and after.
Colbert echoed the same sentiment.
“I was personally shattered,” he said. “And then you re-form yourself in this quiet, grieving world that was created in [your] house.”
But the most profound and touching parts of the interview happen in its second part, when Cooper and Colbert talk about how experiencing profound grief at different parts of their lives has changed their outlook on the world, on being grateful, and on being human.
“You said ‘What punishment of gods are not gifts?'” Cooper says, choking back tears. “Do you really believe that?”
Colbert thinks for a moment before he says, assuredly, “Yes.”
“It’s a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering,” he continues. “There’s no escaping that.”
He continues, “I don’t want it to have happened. I want it to not have happened. But if you’re grateful for your life — and I’m not always — then you have to be grateful for all of it.”
This is about the point where everyone who knows the feelings of loss these men describe is sobbing into their coffee. But this interview gets even better when Colbert shares how he thinks grief has shaped him as a man, a father, a husband, and a friend.
“So what do you get from loss?” he says. “You get awareness of other people’s loss, which allows you to connect with that other person, which allows you to love more deeply and to understand what it’s like to be a human being… At a young age, I suffered something, so that by the time I was in serious relationships in my life — with friends, with my wife, with my children — I understand that everyone is suffering. It’s the fullness of your humanity. What’s the point of being here and being human if you can’t be the most human you can be? That involves acknowledging and being grateful for the things that I wish didn’t happen, because they gave me a gift.”
Grief isn’t something to be grateful for, but Cooper and Colbert are reminding all of us who have experienced it that everything in life — whether we interpret it as good or bad — can help us become better.