How Gloria Vanderbilt Coped After the Suicide of Her Son, Carter Cooper
The fashion icon and socialite died in her home on Monday morning surrounded by friends and family
The late style icon, socialite and mother of four experienced tragic loss when her son, whom she shared with author Wyatt Cooper, died by suicide at age 23 in July 1988.
Vanderbilt and her son, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, opened up about the painful experience in a 2016 interview with PEOPLE. At the time — 28 years after Carter’s tragic death — both said they still did not have closure.
“The most terrible word in the English language, ‘closure,’ ” Vanderbilt said at the time.
“It doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing,” added Cooper, 52.
Carter died after swinging off the terrace wall of her 14th floor Manhattan apartment. His passing came ten years after the death of Carter and Anderson’s father, a man Anderson and Vanderbilt both describe as the glue who held the family together. Vanderbilt, who looked on helplessly during Carter’s final moments, said her bond with Anderson became stronger after Carter’s death, even if holidays like Christmas were never the same.
“Well, I remember the first Christmas we were together after it happened – cause he died July 22 – and we went to the movies,” Vanderbilt said. “And then we went to the automat, and from then on we’ve never done anything about Christmas.”
Anderson added: “I think it obviously brought us together in ways and I think you can’t help but come closer going through something like that, and, you know, it left us with each other. And, I think it’s still hard to believe it’s been so long because I think it’s still so present in our lives, that sense of loss.”
Vanderbilt explained that over the years she always welcomed people telling her stories about her late son.
“Some people … who knew Carter will start to talk about him and then say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ And I say, ‘No, I love to talk about him. More, more, more.’ Because that brings him alive and it brings him closer and it means that he hasn’t been forgotten.”
Anderson announced his mother’s death on Monday in a CNN obituary. “Earlier this month, we had to take her to the hospital. That’s where we learned she had very advanced cancer in her stomach and that it had spread. When the doctor told her she had cancer, she was silent for a while, and then she said, ‘Well, it’s like that old song: Show me the way to get out of this world, because that’s where everything is.’ “
He wrote that she died at home surrounded by friends and family at her side.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.