Bradley Cooper has been in the news most often lately for his work on A Star is Born, the labor of love that he directed and co-starred in. But in a recent conversation with Oprah at the taping of her “SuperSoul Conversations” TV special, he spoke openly about something far more meaningful and personal: the death of his father.

Cooper revealed that he was with his dad when he died. “His head was right there,” he said, as he pointed towards his chest.  And he admitted that moment was the “biggest gift” his father gave him. “The second biggest gift,” he said, on second thought. “[The first was] having me and bringing me into this life.”

When Oprah asked him what it felt like to hold a loved one as they hovered moments from death, Cooper reclined into his seat, smoothed out the leg of his pant, and sighed: “It was everything.”

Cooper says that moment changed him both as an actor and as a man. “[I became] stronger, more open, more willing to fail because of him… The reality of mortality hits you like a ton of bricks,” he said.

Cooper’s response to his father’s death isn’t uncommon. “When someone dies, it can put things in perspective; you may realize what and who truly matters and how precious life and time is,” Robin Goodman, Ph.D., the Executive Director and Program Director at A Caring Hand, a foundation that helps bereaved children and families cope, tells Thrive. “You may realize that worries and disappointments take up space, and you may begin to embrace an ‘If not now, then when’ attitude. Challenging life events can also be an incredible source of growth and impetus for change, providing an opportunity to find meaning.”

Goodman adds that Cooper’s vulnerability – the fact that he was willing to share about this intimate and challenging moment, and what it taught him – is a gift. “That helps grieving people feel understood and less alone,” she says.

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  • Alexandra Hayes

    Content Director, Product & Brand, at Thrive

    Alexandra Hayes is a Content Director, Product & Brand, at Thrive. Prior to joining Thrive, she was a middle school reading teacher in Canarsie, Brooklyn.