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Wednesday
Sep212011

Anderson Cooper on Brother's Suicide: Grief Never Ends

Jordan Strauss/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Anderson Cooper, whose 23-year-old brother Carter, a promising Princeton graduate, jumped from the family's penthouse balcony to his death nearly two decades ago, knows well the word that so disturbs grieving families -- "closure."

That, he said this week on his new syndicated daytime talk show, Anderson, is a "TV word."

For the first time publicly, Cooper, 44, openly talked with his 87-year-old mother, former fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, about the day in 1988 his troubled brother threw himself off the balcony of the family's 14th floor New York City penthouse.  At the time, Cooper was 21.

"There is this word 'closure' that they talk so much about today, but there's never closure on something that happens like that," said Vanderbilt.  "You never get over it, but you learn to live with it."

Cooper agreed as his eyes welled with tears as he interviewed his mother.

Suicide experts hailed the discussion as important for both survivors of suicide and its victims.

Lawrence Calhoun, a suicide expert and professor of psychology at University of North Carolina, Charlotte, said the public discussion of such a private death, "shows a combination of strength and the desire to have this difficult set of circumstances be helpful to others facing similar kinds of valleys of the shadow."

"When you think you have the loss of a beloved child -- he chose to end his life and I saw him do it," said Calhoun.  "And I was there and I did not have the superhuman capacity to prevent it.  That is a combination of poisons [that] I think would take down just about anybody.

"The fact that Miss Vanderbilt has resilience and courage to still keep living and to talk about it is remarkable," he said.

John Draper, executive director of The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline agreed that it was "brave" for mother and son to open old wounds.

"A lot of people don't want to talk about their pain," he said.  "There is a lot of stigma talking about it.  It took courage and strength to bare their souls in front of others and, in fact, help others."

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