Anderson Cooper sat down with Stephen Colbert recently for a wide-ranging interview that explored the topics of grief and loss. Cooper, who recently lost his mother, got emotional when asking Colbert to explain what he meant when he once said he’d “learned to love the thing that I most wish had not happened” and to ask “what punishments of God are not gifts?”
Colbert, who suffered extreme loss as a child when his father and two brothers died in a plane crash, gave a thoughtful explanation of his views on how suffering forms and ultimately improves us, saying:
“It’s a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There’s no escaping that.”
one of my favorite excerpts from my interview with @StephenAtHome. This question he embraces left me stunned when i first read it, and i can’t stop thinking about his answer. It has helped me, and i hope it helps others. https://t.co/eQfaGYFzF9— Anderson Cooper (@andersoncooper) August 16, 2019
“I guess I’m either a Catholic or a Buddhist when I say those things,” joked Colbert before expounding on what he meant.
“What do you get from loss? 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, if it’s true that all humans suffer.”
Colbert discussed how experiencing tragedy at a young age taught him about suffering and even to be “grateful” for having suffered because it teaches you about other people. He also discussed the loss of his own mother and his realization that wanting to make her laugh again after she lost her husband and sons was perhaps what made him become a comedian in the first place.
“I want to be the most human I can be and that involves acknowledging, and ultimately being grateful for, the things that I wish didn’t happen, because they gave me a gift.”
As a well-known fantasy buff, Colbert even found a way to work in J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord Of The Rings, attributing the quote about “what punishments of gods are not gifts?” to the English author.
Reactions to the clip were swift and passionate, with viewers expressing their appreciation for the two men’s candor about loss and grief.
Both of you touched so many people tonight. Thanks to the two of you for being so generous with one another and with us. Profound, touching, so very intelligent. Was right there with you, mouth hanging open. Two men, talking about the realest of things. Sanity.
— maria ballantyne (@anofiscal) August 16, 2019
The entire conversation is so moving. Such depth, raw pain, and compassion – especially from two people in the public eye – is both rare and courageous.
— Paul Begala (@PaulBegala) August 16, 2019
A beautiful, awe-inspiring answer. Thank you for such a touching and personal interview that revealed both your hearts. True, genuine gentlemen who make the pain of this world a little easier to bear with your empathy and authenticity. ❤️
— Joy Archibald (@joylynn74) August 16, 2019
This was an excellent and important interview for people to see. So many of us have lost loved ones, and even still we find it awkward when trying to find comforting words for others who have lost theirs. Talking about my brother, father, & best friend is natural & welcome.
— Brooksie (@allatti2d) August 16, 2019
Phenomenal interview. I agree with Colbert. It is a gift to exist. I’m existing for my brother and father who left me years ago. Always cherishing my memories.
— Anna (@csanna3) August 16, 2019
How incredible that two men who have experience such similar losses were able to share their personal pain and let us witness. I lost my mother last month and you both spoke to me. Thank you.
— DonnaLou (@d_reynolds) August 16, 2019
The sharing of grief & loss & trauma that you & @StephenAtHome make room for is life-giving arrirming, @andersoncooper. Even the pauses are quiet spaces to receive each other. What y’all do here is model how to heal a nation. This breaks my heart good.
— Anna Caudill (@AnnaCaudill4) August 16, 2019
You can watch the entirety of Colbert’s interview with Anderson Cooper in the two clips below:
"I was personally shattered, and then you kind of reform yourself in this quiet, grieving world that was created in the house."— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) August 16, 2019
Comedian Stephen Colbert opens up to @andersoncooper about grief and the death of his dad and brothers in a plane crash when he was 10 years old. pic.twitter.com/dUnc5CXSs5
You said "what punishment of gods are not gifts. Do you really believe that?" @andersoncooper, choking back tears, asks Stephen Colbert, as they discuss grief.— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) August 16, 2019
"Yes," replies the comedian. "It's a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There's no escaping that." pic.twitter.com/p5rUUhZKxq
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