Anderson Cooper on Confronting Past Loss and Finding 'Bliss' with Sons Wyatt and Sebastian (Exclusive)

The CNN anchor and author of the book 'Astor' tells PEOPLE about his life as a single dad, co-parenting with his ex and why now is the "best time" in his life

<p></p> Anderson Cooper
Anderson Cooper's People Magazine cover shoot

Anderson Cooper is reveling in the joy he gets from raising his sons.

“This is the best time in my life,” the 56-year-old CNN anchor says in the new issue of PEOPLE. “There is no doubt about it.”

Cooper, who is co-parenting 3-year-old Wyatt Morgan and 19-month-old Sebastian Luke with his friend and ex-partner, nightclub owner Benjamin Maisani, 50, adds that he feels “moments of such bliss, humor and gentleness and sheer delight that it stuns me.”

Related: Anderson Cooper Shares Adorable New Family Photo as He Celebrates Son Wyatt's 3rd Birthday

It’s a welcome change for a man who has suffered painful losses throughout his life. Cooper was 10 when his father, author Wyatt Cooper, had a heart attack and died in 1978. Ten years later Cooper’s older brother Carter died by suicide at 23. His mother, socialite and fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, died at age 95 in 2019.

After pushing aside his grief for years, he’s been confronting it so his sons don’t see “shadows of loss” behind his eyes, as he put it on his podcast, All There Is With Anderson Cooper.

Talking with guests like Molly Shannon about their own grief helps, says Cooper, who launches season 2 this fall: “It has certainly made me feel less alone."

<p>Victoria Stevens</p> Anderson Cooper and Benjamin Maisani with their sons Sebastian and Wyatt on Sept. 4

Victoria Stevens

Anderson Cooper and Benjamin Maisani with their sons Sebastian and Wyatt on Sept. 4

Leaving the past in the past allows Cooper — who marked twenty years of his CNN news show, Anderson Cooper 360 this month — to focus on a joyous future with his modern family.

Cooper, who lives with Maisani and the boys in New York City as well as at their Connecticut country home, says he loves the “routine” at their house in New England.

“We have the diner we go to every morning — they like the folks who run the diner very much. And they love to swim. I love getting them ready for their afternoon nap and sitting with them and reading and then having them fall asleep in my arms. There’s nothing better,” he explains.

Related: Anderson Cooper Asks for Help Finding Toddler's 'Favorite' Stuffed Animal After Toy Goes Missing

Co-parenting with Maisani has been “very natural,” adds Cooper, who dated the business owner for several years until 2018. They remained friends and decided to raise the boys together after the journalist welcomed them through a surrogate.

“I work nights, and so he’s there at night. And we both wake up right before they wake up, get them their milk and spend the first couple of hours of the day just us with them,” explains Cooper. “And Benjamin speaks French to them. I have no idea what they’re saying. I think they’re plotting against me.”

<p>Victoria Stevens</p> Anderson Cooper plays with son Sebastian at home Sept. 4

Victoria Stevens

Anderson Cooper plays with son Sebastian at home Sept. 4

The boys play well together — and even use some of Cooper’s old toys.

“Just to see their relationship, it’s incredible,” he says. “I recently found wooden blocks that my brother and I played with. We drew robots on them and stuff. And so now to see Wyatt playing with those and building things, it’s crazy.”

Continues Cooper, “It’s lovely to see this cycle of life and of love and how all these things sort of repeat.”

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Though the boys are young, Cooper is already thinking about what he wants to teach them about money and responsibility. It’s something that crossed his mind as he worked on his 2021 book Vanderbilt, a history of his storied family, as well as his new book Astor, which chronicles the rise and fall of that American dynasty as well.

Related: Who Is Anderson Cooper's Mom? All About Gloria Vanderbilt

Both the Vanderbilts and the Astors gained and lost incredible fortunes, and Cooper wants his boys to know the importance of earning a living.

Asked what he wants to teach the boys about wealth, Cooper says, “It’s something I have thought about, and I don’t know that I have the answers to it yet.”

<p>Victoria Stevens</p> Anderson Cooper at home on Sept. 4, 2023

Victoria Stevens

Anderson Cooper at home on Sept. 4, 2023

Related: Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper Joke About How Their Weekends Have Changed Since Becoming Dads

“My dad made clear to me there wasn’t a Vanderbilt fortune waiting for me. In retrospect, I’m really glad he did that because from the get-go, it just made it clear that whatever my mom’s past was, it had nothing to do with me from a financial standpoint,” he continues. “That set me out very early on a course of wanting to work and find out what I was passionate about. I want my kids to figure out what drives them, and I want to help them figure that out."

In the meantime, he’s trying to be present in the moment to treasure every moment with Wyatt and Sebastian: “There’s a lot of important things happening, and I want to see that.”

For more on Anderson Cooper, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

Astor: The Rise and Fall of an American Fortune hits bookshelves on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

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Read the original article on People.