Anderson Cooper goes through items that belonged to his mother, who died in 2019.
CNN  — 

I realized a couple months ago that I’ve never really grieved before. That may sound strange given that last year, I did an entire season of a podcast about grief called “All There Is” while I was going through boxes of things that belonged to my dad, who died when I was 10, and my brother, who died when I was 21, and my mom, who died in 2019. But experiencing loss and actually grieving are two different things.

When the first season of the podcast ended last November, I stopped going through all those boxes. It was just too hard, and I needed a break. The last episode of the podcast was made up largely of voicemails from listeners. I’d asked people to call if there was something they had learned in their grief that might help others. The messages were extraordinary, but I’d had time to hear only about 200 of them before I had to pick some to use in the final episode. There were more than a thousand calls I hadn’t heard, and I felt bad about that. I didn’t plan on doing a second season of the podcast, but a few months ago, I listened to all those unheard messages - more than 46 hours of them. It turned out to be one of the most moving experiences of my life.

I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but hearing all those calls - all that pain and bravery and love - awakened something in me that I had buried long ago. I decided to start going through the boxes of my parents’ and brother’s things once again, and the first one I opened was full of my dad’s papers. He was a writer. On top of the pile was an essay he wrote more than 40 years ago. I’d never seen it before. It was titled “The Importance of Grieving,” and in it, he wrote about what happens to children when they aren’t able to properly grieve. He quoted a psychologist who said, “when a person is unable to complete a mourning task in childhood, he either has to surrender his emotions in order that they do not suddenly overwhelm him, or else he may be haunted constantly throughout his life, with a sadness for which he can never find an appropriate explanation.”

When I read that, I realized, for the first time: That’s me. That’s exactly what I did. When my dad died in 1978, I dug a deep hole inside myself and pushed my fear and sadness and anger down into it. I barely even cried. A decade later, when my brother Carter died by suicide, I pushed those feelings down further. I thought I could keep all that grief buried forever, but it turns out grief doesn’t work that way. As one podcast listener said to me, “It has to go somewhere.”

I see now that in burying my grief, I’ve also buried my ability to feel joy, and I don’t want to do that any longer. I can’t. I want to feel all there is.

So that’s why I’m doing another season of the podcast. I need to talk with others who have found ways to live with their grief and to learn from it.

The new season of “All There Is” is available now wherever you get your podcasts.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health matters, please call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 to connect with a trained counselor, or visit the 988 Lifeline website.