Cooper began recording the podcast while packing the apartment of his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, two years after her death in 2019 at the age of 95.
Vanderbilt was a legendary fashion designer and artist. The great-grandson of railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, he lived a life marked by tremendous tragedy and triumph. In his apartment, Cooper found secret journals and fascinating memorabilia. In a box, he found a stack of telegrams from Frank Sinatra It was sent to his mother when they were dating in the 1950s.
“Frank Sinatra’s loving telegrams are just what you’d expect,” Cooper said.
Cooper’s father, Wyatt, a writer from Mississippi, died suddenly in 1978 at the age of 50 of a heart attack, and 10 years later, Cooper’s brother, Carter, committed suicide, killing himself in front of Gloria Vanderbilt at the age of 23. .
Before his death, Vanderbilt left Cooper hidden notes attached to some of his possessions. Perhaps most chilling was the note taped to a box containing the blouse and skirt Vanderbilt was wearing when Carter died.
In going through his mother’s possessions, Cooper also had to go through his father’s and brother’s, which had been kept in storage since their deaths. She said she felt overwhelmed by the process, and began reaching out to others, recording conversations with them about pain and loss, and what to do with the things her mother had left behind.
“I was shocked at how alone I felt as the last surviving member of my family,” Cooper said, “and I realized that talking to others who had experienced grief and spoke the language of loss was life-changing.”
Cooper said he was motivated to deal with his grief by his two sons, Wyatt and Sebastian. “I didn’t want to convey to them the pain and sadness I’ve felt throughout my life,” he added.
“I won’t pretend that I don’t feel the overwhelming sense of loss anymore, far from it, but I think about that sadness and grief differently now, and I really hope this podcast helps others too.”
CNN’s All There Is with Anderson Cooper premieres new episodes on Wednesdays and will be available on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
Megan Marcus is an executive producer for CNN Audio.