Inside Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt's unconventional mother-son relationship

Anderson Cooper is mourning the loss of his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt.

CNN shared the news of the artist and heiress' death on Monday, with Cooper himself narrating a video about her extraordinary life. Vanderbilt died on Monday morning after a battle with stomach cancer. She was 95 years old.

Vanderbilt is survived by three sons, 52-year-old Cooper being the youngest. The late fashion icon and designer was married four times and divorced three times. She married her first husband when she was 17 -- Pat DiCicco, an agent for actors -- in 1941, but they divorced after four years of marriage. She later claimed DiCicco was abusive toward her. She ended up marrying her second husband, conductor Leopold Stokowski, within weeks of divorcing DiCicco. The couple had two sons together, 68-year-old Leopold and 67-year-old Christopher, but they divorced after a decade of marriage.

Her third husband was director Sidney Lumet, whom she married in 1956, and their marriage lasted until 1963. Vanderbilt's last husband was late author Wyatt Emery Cooper, who died in 1978 while undergoing heart surgery. The pair had two sons together, Cooper as well as his older brother, Carter, who died by suicide in 1988. Carter, who was two years older than Cooper, was just 23 years old when he jumped out of Vanderbilt's 14th floor Manhattan apartment in front of her.

In an emotional 2011 interview on Cooper's talk show, Anderson, Vanderbilt talked about the traumatizing moment and said it was Cooper who kept her from jumping after Carter.

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Gloria Vanderbilt and son Anderson Cooper together
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Gloria Vanderbilt and son Anderson Cooper together
LONG ISLAND, NY - MARCH 30: Socialite and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt poses for a portrait session with her sons Anderson Cooper (left) and Carter Vanderbilt Cooper on a bed in their home on March 30, 1972 in Southampton, Long Island, New York. (Photo by Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Gloria Vanderbilt and her two sons, Anderson and Carter, sit on her bed. (Photo by Horst P. Horst/Condé Nast via Getty Images)
Swiss-born socialite Gloria Vanderbilt runs down the street with her two sons Anderson Cooper and Carter Vanderbilt Cooper (1965 - 1988), New York, New York. (Photo by Susan Wood/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - DECEMBER 31: (L-R) Gloria Vanderbilt, Carter Cooper and Anderson Cooper attend Woody Allen New Year Eve's Party on December 31, 1979 at Harkness House in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1988: Gloria Vanderbilt, Carter Cooper and Anderson Cooper circa 1988. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 18: Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt attend THE GORDON PARKS AWARDS DINNER & AUCTION: A Celebration of his Life and the Arts at Gotham Hall on June 18, 2007. (Photo by MATT CARASELLA/Patrick McMullan via Getty Imagess)
Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt at the Tiffany Store in New York, New York (Photo by Rabbani and Solimene Photography/WireImage)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - APRIL 16: (L-R) Anderson Cooper, Gloria Vanderbilt and Matthew Patrick Smyth attend KIPS BAY BOYS & GIRLS CLUB 2009 Preview Gala & Cocktails at ASPREY at Kips Bay Decorator Show House & Asprey on April 16, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by BILLY FARRELL /Patrick McMullan via Getty Imagess)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Pictured (l-r): Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Pictured (l-r): Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Pictured (l-r): Andy Cohen, Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Pictured (l-r): Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 04: Journalist Anderson Cooper and artist Gloria Vanderbilt attend the "Nothing Left Unsaid" New York premiere at Time Warner Center on April 4, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 04: Chairman and CEO of HBO Richard Plepler, artist Gloria Vanderbilt, president of HBO documentary films Sheila Nevins, journalist Anderson Cooper and director Liz Garbus attend the "Nothing Left Unsaid" New York premiere at Time Warner Center on April 4, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt attend A Conversation with Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt at 92nd Street Y on April 14, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 07: Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper in conversation at Barnes & Noble Union Square on April 7, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt attend A Conversation With Anderson Cooper And Gloria Vanderbilt at 92Y on April 14, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jenny Anderson/WireImage)
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"There was a moment when...he did not jump," she said. "He was sitting on the wall 13 floors up, on the balcony. With one foot on there and one foot hanging down, he kept looking down. I kept begging him too... and then when he went, he went like an athlete and hung over the wall like this. I said, 'Carter, come back,' and for a minute I thought he was going to come back, but he didn't. He let go. There was a moment when I thought I was going to jump after him. But then I thought of you and it stopped me from doing that."

Vanderbilt said she and Cooper no longer celebrated Christmas after Carter's death in a 2016 interview with People.

"Well, I remember the first Christmas we were together after it happened -- 'cause he died July 22 -- and we went to the movies," she said. "And then we went to the automat, and from then on we’ve never done anything about Christmas."

Cooper did note that the tragic death brought him and his mother closer.

"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," he told the magazine. "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."

In Cooper and Vanderbilt's revealing 2016 book revolving around their personal emails to one another, The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss, Cooper wrote about what it was like growing up with Vanderbilt as his mother.

"We have never had what would be described as a conventional relationship," he acknowledged. "My mom wasn't the kind of parent you would go to for practical advice about school or work. What she does know about are hard-earned truths, the kind of things you discover only by living an epic life filled with love and loss, tragedies and triumphs, big dreams and deep heartaches."

He also praised her as resilient, and always open to new things.

"She has survived abuse, the loss of her parents, the death of a spouse, the suicide of a son, and countless other traumas and betrayals that might have defeated someone without her relentless determination," he wrote. "Though she is a survivor, she has none of the toughness that word usually carries with it. She is the strongest person I know, but tough, she is not. She has never allowed herself to develop a protective layer of thick skin. She's chosen to remain vulnerable, open to new experiences and possibilities, and because of that, she is the most youthful person I know."

In their 2016 HBO documentary, Nothing Left Unsaid, Cooper talked about taking after his famous mother.

"I grew up my entire life, thinking I'm exactly like my dad -- I look a lot like him, but I realize now, I'm very much my mom's son. And we're a lot alike in a lot of ways. Some people are sucked under tragedy and loss. It destroys them. And some people, it propels them forward. And I think it certainly has with my mom, and it certainly has with me."

45 PHOTOS
Gloria Vanderbilt over the years
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Gloria Vanderbilt over the years
Gloria Vanderbilt. January 14, 1955. (Photo by Louis Liotta/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
Gloria Vanderbilt took the witness stand for the third day today to testify in the custody proceeding involving her two children, Chris, 7, and Stan, 8, and her husband, conductor Leopold Stokowski. June 08, 1959. (Photo by Louis Liotta/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
Gloria Vanderbilt. June 05, 1959. (Photo by Arty Pomerantz/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Star Gathering. Eva Gabor (left) and her new husband Richard Brown share the dance floor with Director Sidney Lumet and his wife Gloria Vanderbilt. Fisher's opening-nite performance just before the party was generally acclaimed by both critics and audience, confounding prophets who said the singer's career would be wrecked after his marital difficulties with Debbie Reynolds and subsequent marriage to Miss Taylor.
(Original Caption) Gloria Vanderbilt and her husband Sidney Lumet, are seen here with Cleveland Amory. (Photo by VCG Wilson/Bettmann Archive)
Gloria Vanderbilt enters Supreme Court with her lawyers, Arnold R. Krakower, left, and George Haipern, to hear testimony of Leopold Stokowski in their custody battle over their sons. January 14, 1958. (Photo by Louis Liotta/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Los Angeles. Actress Gloria Vanderbilt arives here 11/12 to make her motion picture depbut opposite Frank Sinatra in the actor's first production venture, "Johnny Concho." Miss Vanderbilt said that she was sorry that "Frank" was not at the airport to meet her.
Gloria Vanderbilt at the World Premiere of "East of Eden." (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Gloria Vanderbilt is congratulated by actor Franchot Tone after making her New York legitimate stage debut at the City Center. Gloria had a bit part in a production of "the Time of Your Life," which opened a two-week run at the theater. Tone starred in the revival.
(Original Caption) Gloria Vanderbilt Stokowska as she began rehearsals today for her role in William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life, which opens at the 55th Street Playhouse on January 19th. Miss Vanderbilt recently announced her separation from maestro Leopold Stokowski and said she plans to divorce him. They have been married nine years and have two children.
Portrait of designer Gloria Vanderbilt, late 1960s or early 1970s. (Photo by Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
American heiress and designer Gloria Vanderbilt and her second husband American film director Sidney Lumet stand together at the foot of a marble staircase, early 1960s. (Photo by Getty Images)
Producer Sidney Lumet and his wife, heiress Gloria Vanderbilt smile as the stand together at the Astor Theatre for the opening of "The Fugitive Kind". The film, which stars Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, and Joanne Woodward is an adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play, Orpheus Descending. New York City, New York.
Portrait of American heiress and socialite (as well as fashion designer and artist) Gloria Vanderbilt, New York, New York, late 1960s. (Photo by Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Socialite Gloria Vanderbilt with a new hairdo made famous by the 1961 French film 'Last Year at Marienbad', May 1963. (Photo by Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
American heriess and designer Gloria Vanderbilt poses with her fourth husband, actor and editor Wyatt Cooper (1927 - 1978), at the Nine O'clocks Winter Ball in honor of Colonel Serge Obolensky's 80th birthday, Plaza Hotel, New York City, December 1, 1970. The theme of the ball was the Winter Palace at St. Petersburg during the Romanov Dynasty. (Photo by Santi Visalli Inc./Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 01: Gloria Vanderbilt, socialite, seated on the patchwork floor in her apartment, in front of the fireplace, wearing Japonoiserie-styled patchwork, silk caftan with ruffled collar, hair pulled back into her usual classic chignon (Photo by Horst P. Horst/Conde Nast via Getty Images)
From left, twin sisters, Lady Furness (Thelma Morgan) (1904 - 1970) and Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt (1904 - 1965) sit together in front of a fireplace. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Gloria Vanderbilt culred up on a couch with flowered printed pillows she designed, the apartment is shared with husband Wyatt Cooper and two young sons. (Photo by Horst P. Horst/Conde Nast via Getty Images)
Close up of designer and socialite, Gloria Vanderbilt stands in her Manhattan studio. (Photo by Horst P. Horst/Condé Nast via Getty Images)
Gloria Vanderbilt in her studio with pantings on the walls and floor. (Photo by Horst P. Horst/Conde Nast via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY- CIRCA 1980s: Bobby Short and Gloria Vanderbilt circa the 1980s in New York City. (Photo by Bettina Cirone/IMAGES/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - CIRCA 1980: Gloria Vanderbilt circa 1980 in New York City. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)
Designers Gloria Vanderbilt and Geoffrey Beene (in shadows) between a pair of folding partition walls in Geoffrey Beene's New York showroom. Gloria Vanderbilt wears a two-piece dress with a bouffant skirt, printed with pink flowers on cotton, by Geoffrey Beene. Hair by Suga. Makeup by Sandra Linter. (Photo by Deborah Turbeville/Conde Nast via Getty Images)
Bill Blass and Gloria Vanderbilt during 1985 Annual Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards Dinner at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 01: Fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt (great- great-granddaughter of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt) wearing a pleated dress most likely by Fortuny and posing in front of a large portrait of her mother in her penthouse in Gracie Square in New York City (Photo by Horst P. Horst/Conde Nast via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 19: Gloria Vanderbilt (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 19: Gloria Vanderbilt (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 19: Gloria Vanderbilt (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Gloria Vanderbilt during Fall Fashion Week Fashion by Bill Blass - April 6, 1995 at Bryant Park in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Portrait of Gloria Vanderbilt. (Photo by Eric Robert/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Portrait of Gloria Vanderbilt. (Photo by Eric Robert/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)
Gloria Vanderbilt and sons Carter Cooper and Anderson Cooper attend the premiere of Manhattan on April 18, 1979 at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1998: Gloria Vanderbilt signs her book with Anne Slater, Madison Ave. bookstore, New York - 1998 (Photo by Rose Hartman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - 2000: Artist Gordon Parks & designer Gloria Vanderbilt at a gala at the Plaza Hotel in 2000 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Rose Hartman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - APRIL 4: Gloria Vanderbilt and Andrew Slabey attend 4th Annual Benefit for The Academy of American Poets at Alice Tully Hall Lincoln Center on April 4, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Matt Carasella/Patrick McMullan via Getty Imagess)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - FEBRUARY 5: Gloria Vanderbilt attends Celebration & Book Signing for DRAWING FASHION: THE ART OF KENNETH PAUL BLOCK by Susan Mulcahy at Bergdorf Goodman on February 5, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Imagess)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - FEBRUARY 5: Anne Slater and Gloria Vanderbilt attend Celebration & Book Signing for DRAWING FASHION: THE ART OF KENNETH PAUL BLOCK by Susan Mulcahy at Bergdorf Goodman on February 5, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by NEIL RASMUS/Patrick McMullan via Getty Imagess)
American photographer and film director Gordon Parks (1912 - 2006) and American artist and author Gloria Vanderbilt attending the '8th Annual Living Landmarks Gala' at the Plaza Hotel, New York City, USA, circa 2001. (Photo by Rose Hartman/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 04: Ralph Lauren and Gloria Vanderbilt attend the launch party for "The World Of Gloria Vanderbilt" at the Ralph Lauren Women's Boutique on November 4, 2010 in New York City (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 04: Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper attend the launch party for "The World Of Gloria Vanderbilt" at the Ralph Lauren Women's Boutique on November 4, 2010 in New York City (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 15: Diane Furstenberg and Gloria Vanderbilt attend DIANE VON FURSTENBERG celebrates the publication of GLORIA VANDERBILT's "Obession: An Erotic Tale" at 874 Washington St on July 15, 2009 in New York. (Photo by AMBER DE VOS/Patrick McMullan via Getty Imagess)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Painter Gloria Vanderbilt attends "The World of Gloria Vanderbilt: Collages, Dream Boxes, and Recent Paintings" Preview Party Gala Benefit to benefit the Huntsville Museum of Art on September 12, 2012 in New York, United States. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 14: Gloria Vanderbilt speaks during SiriusXM's 'Town Hall' With Gloria Vanderbilt at SiriusXM Studios on July 14, 2016 in New York City. Town Hall To Air On Radio Andy. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 14: Gloria Vanderbilt attends SiriusXM's 'Town Hall' With Gloria Vanderbilt at SiriusXM Studios on July 14, 2016 in New York City. Town Hall To Air On Radio Andy. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
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Cooper has said that both he and his mother struggled with the weight of their famous family. In a 2016 interview with CBS This Morning, Cooper admitted in the early days of his career, he didn't want to be attached to the Vanderbilt name. His mother was famous at an early age due to being in the middle of an intense custody battle between her mother and her late father's sister, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Vanderbilt's father was financier Reginald Vanderbilt, the heir to a railroad fortune. Whitney was eventually granted custody.

"That name Vanderbilt has such baggage with it, such history, and I'm very glad I don't have that name, and my mom never felt much connection to the Vanderbilt family and I certainly didn't," Cooper said, noting that he always identified more with his father's more down-to-earth roots in Mississippi. "One of the happiest days for my mom, she called me and said, 'Somebody just referred to me as Anderson Cooper's mom.' Very happy that shes reached that stage of life."

As for how he was raised by his mom when his father died when he was just 10 years old, Cooper noted that his mom never treated him and his brother like kids.

"We were part of the conversation," he noted. "We were at the dinner table. There wasn't a kids table. My mom took us everywhere."

Cooper noted that his mom was always open and shared that with her kids, including introducing him to a gay couple she referred to as married when he was 10, even though it wasn't accepted at the time. Cooper came out in 2012, and said that he always knew ultimately, she would be "cool about it."

In June, Cooper told Entertainment Weekly that he actually forgot to tell his mom he was publicly coming out in 2012, when he quietly published a letter on his friend, Andrew Sullivan's, website.

"My phone lit up. And I'd realized I'd forgotten to tell my mom I was making this announcement," he recalled. "I’d come out to her a long time ago, but she was like, 'Oh, you could've given me a heads up!'"

When Vanderbilt developed a respiratory infection in 2015 and became seriously ill for the first time in her life, her relationship with Cooper took another turn. The journalist said he realized he wanted to know his mother on a more personal level while she was still alive, and the two began emailing one another. The deeply personal emails became the basis for their 2016 book. In an excerpt, Cooper notes that the emails had the effect of "bringing us closer than either of us had ever thought possible."

"It's the kind of conversation I think many parents and their grown children would like to have, and it has made this past year the most valuable of my life," he wrote. "By breaking down the walls of silence that existed between us, I have come to understand my mom and myself in ways I never imagined."

"I know now that it's never too late to change the relationship you have with someone important in your life: a parent, a child, a lover, a friend," he continued. " All it takes is a willingness to be honest and to shed your old skin, to let go of the long-standing assumptions and slights you still cling to."

In Cooper's moving on-air eulogy for his mother on Monday, he talked about her final days.

"She spent a lot of time alone in her head during her life, but when the end came, she was not alone," he shared. "She was surrounded by beauty, and by family, and by friends. The last few weeks, every time I kissed her goodbye, I'd say, 'I love you, Mom.' She would look at me, and say, 'I love you, too. You know that.' And she was right. I did know that. I knew it from the moment I was born, and I'll know it for the rest of my life. And, in the end, what greater gift can a mother give to her son?"

"Gloria Vanderbilt was 95 years old when she died," he continued. "What an extraordinary life. What an extraordinary mom. What an incredible woman."

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