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Kathie Lee Gifford Talks ‘Crippling Loneliness’ After the Deaths of Her Husband and Mother: ‘You Gotta Make New Memories’

Kathie Lee Gifford AARP Cover Crippling Loneliness
Kathie Lee Gifford on the cover of AARP Magazine.

Kathie Lee Gifford is feeling the loss of those who were once her closest companions. The former Today show cohost, 65, admitted to feeling lonely after the death of her husband, Frank Gifford, and her mother, Joan Epstein (née Cuttell), who died in September 2017.

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“It dawned on me the other day, I’m a widow, I’m an orphan, because my mother also passed and I’m an empty nester all at the same time,” she told AARP for the magazine’s April/May issue, according to Entertainment Tonight. (Kathie Lee’s father, Aaron Epstein, passed away in 2002.)

The Annie performer was also forced to accept her newfound singledom: “When you’re part of a couple, you don’t realize that the whole world is just made up of couples. And all of a sudden, you’re that odd number at a dinner party. You’re the fifth, seventh, ninth person at the table. They’re always making an adjustment for you.”

She continued: “If you’re not careful, what you’ve lost in life can define you. It’s so much healthier to be defined by what you still have. I’m making big changes in my life because I need to, really big changes that are feeding my soul. Otherwise, despair sets in and loneliness can be crippling. I didn’t have to stay in this big house anymore. I found myself dealing with crippling loneliness. I had to make moves and spiritual moves. You gotta make new memories or the old ones are going to kill you.”

There is one ritual the Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi author continues to do, however. “Sunset used to be a huge thing in our family,” she told the magazine. “Every day, no matter what, we’d yell, ‘Sunset alert!’ and we had to stop whatever we were doing, go out, and honor another day. And now I still say it out loud to the puppies. We still go out and do it, but sunset alerts are some of my saddest moments when it’s just me and the dogs at home.”

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The sportscaster passed away of natural causes at the age of 84 in August 2015. The Gifford family released a statement at the time: “It is with the deepest sadness that we announce the sudden passing of our beloved husband, father and friend, Frank Gifford. Frank died suddenly this beautiful Sunday morning of natural causes at his Connecticut home. We rejoice in the extraordinary life he was privileged to live, and we feel grateful and blessed to have been loved by such an amazing human being.”

Kathie Lee Gifford AARP Crippling Loneliness Husband Frank Dead
Frank Gifford and Kathie Lee Gifford attend the opening night of ‘Scandalous’ on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre on November 15, 2012 in New York City. Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

The Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee alum was “distraught” following her spouse’s death, according to former Today costar Al Roker. “She is very strong but obviously, very distraught,” the TV personality, 64, told HuffPost Live at the time. “The thing I love about Kathie Lee is that she jokes around… at her core, she is such a woman of faith. And while this is a tragedy for her and her family, I know she knows it’s God’s will. While she’s sad, I think she rejoices in the time she had with Frank and these two beautiful children they had together.”

The singer held a party in Frank’s honor rather than a funeral. “Frank hated funerals. He hated boxes. He hated to be put in boxes,” she said on the Today show one week after he passed away. “He hated to get in an elevator, so we played Frank Sinatra all day long and we partied. The only criteria was, if you were there you had to be somebody that he adored, so it kept it nice and small.”

The Emmy winner discussed her future love life with AARP for the April/May issue, saying, “I know a lot of people go looking for love, but I think it finds you. So, when and if it finds me, I will welcome it literally with open arms.”

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Kathie Lee, who left the Today show in December after almost 11 years, also told the publication that she has big plans for the next chapter of her life: “I’m considered a senior citizen. But I’ve just decided that at this point in my life, I’m not gonna use my senior discount to go to other people’s movies. I’m gonna make movies for them.”

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