My mom died in April and although her death was ‘a good one’ – anticipated, well-attended by her loved ones, and relatively painless – losing a parent is a looming THING in your life which is (of course) difficult to bear but also quite difficult to talk about. Especially as time goes on.
Which is why Anderson Cooper’s excellent “All There Is” podcast is so wonderful. Cooper, who has been cautiously guarded all his famous life, opens up about his own losses, prompted by having to go through his mother Gloria Vanderbilt’s things when he sells her apartment a few years after she dies. Cleaning out the boxes and closets is something we all do when our parents die – okay, he finds photos of his mother with Frank Sinatra and portraits of himself by Diane Arbus. I did NOT find those in my closet, but the process is the same.
What is worth keeping, what can be tossed? And where do your memories and love go – after it’s all said and it’s all done?
Those are the questions we all grapple with, in the months after a loss and as the years endure. It’s not something that we – as a culture – are comfortable talking about. In the podcast, Cooper speaks with famous folks who have grappled with grief and have seemingly mundane things to say that wind up being quite useful. Their comfort with the learnings of grief are incredibly reassuring, at least to me. (Laurie Anderson is particularly interesting, and Stephen Colbert will break your heart).
Here is a recent story about the podcast and it’s famous host from the New York Times. You may or may not be actively grieving, but many folks are doing so quietly.
In a recent interview with Mary Louise Kelly of NPR, Anderson was asked what advice he would give others in active grief. He recommended asking the name of the deceased, asking gently for the other person to speak their name out loud. As a way to honor them. I have done this instinctively for a few years, since my father died, and it’s a simple way to give the other person permission and space to recall their loved one. After all, as Cooper so simply asserts, “love is all there is.”