Grief, Compassion, and Kindness

Late night comedian Stephen Colbert and CNN host Anderson Cooper recently shared their experiences with grief in a powerful, personal, and touching interview. Colbert was just 10, and the youngest of 11 children, when his dad and two brothers died in a plane crash. Similarly, Cooper’s dad died when he was only 10, due to surgical complications. Cooper’s older brother later died due to suicide. Now, struggling with the recent death of his mom, Gloria Vanderbilt, Cooper says the kindness expressed toward him by others makes him wish those compassionate expressions would last well beyond his time of mourning.

Both men say their lives are divided into the before and after of those tragic events. “Suddenly, all things are possible —both good and bad, and you never feel safe again,” said Cooper. Both expressed a feeling of responsibility to care for their mothers. Colbert says, “My family says I raised mom,” noting that he began his career as a comedian to make her laugh.

Colbert has come to realize that everyone suffers in some way, and despite the tragedies is thankful for what they have taught him, saying, “You get awareness of other people’s loss, which allows you to connect with that other person, which allows you to love more deeply. Knowing there isn’t another timeline, the bravest thing I can do is accept with gratitude the world as it is by loving the thing I most wish had not happened, because it’s a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering.”

For many, fall is a time of great beauty, but also a time of reflection. Along with the wonder of the colors and the cooler air, comes an appreciation for life and living, along with a sense of foreboding as to what the next season may bring. Most everyone is eventually touched by painful life experiences. Hopefully, we can learn, as Colbert has, to use those experiences to become more compassionate and to appreciate the lives we have. See the entire interview at

by Annette Pinder

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