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Kathie Lee Gifford Reveals She Deals With 'Crippling Loneliness' After the Death of Her Husband and Mother

ETOnline logo ETOnline 3/25/2019 Antoinette Bueno‍

Kathie Lee Gifford is getting candid about dealing with an extremely difficult period in her life.

The 65-year-old television personality covers the April/May issue of AARP The Magazine and talks about adjusting to a new phase in her life after the death of her husband, Frank Gifford, in August 2015, and the death of her mother, Joan Epstein, in September 2017. Gifford's kids, 25-year-old daughter Cassie and 29-year-old son Cody, are also out of the house.

Kathie Lee Gifford holding a sign: AARP The Magazine © AARP The Magazine AARP The Magazine "You battle a lot of things when you get older, especially as a widow, when you lose a spouse," Gifford tells the magazine. "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. 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," she adds of her home in Long Island, New York. "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."

In one particularly heartbreaking quote from her interview, Gifford talks about adjusting to having more alone time.

"Sunset used to be a huge thing in our family. 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," she recalls. "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."

Gifford admits she removed herself from social situations for a period of time after her husband died.

"When you're part of a couple, you don't realize that the whole world is just made up of couples," she explains. "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."

Kathie Lee Gifford © 2018 NBCUniversal Media, LLC. Kathie Lee Gifford Still, she relied on her friends to help her get through a tough 2018.

"My dearest friends during my darkest time, which was last year, my dearest friends knew I was going through a terrible time. A desert," she says.

But clearly, Gifford is now making big moves at this stage in her career and life, deciding to leave the Today show in April after 11 years and also writing her film, Then Came You, which follows the story of a widow who takes her husband's ashes on a trip to the locations of their favorite movies. Gifford says it's the best time in her life creatively.

"Maybe it is someone else's dream job," she says of her decision to leave Today. "But there was a more powerful dream within me that had yet to be fulfilled. All I ever wanted to do, from the time I was a little girl, was sing and be in movies."

“I’m not reinventing myself at all," she adds. "I am evolving as an artist and a human being, and I will be till the day I die. People who think I'm a silly person do not know me at all. I'm 10 percent silly and 90 percent dead serious in my life.”

Still, Gifford is grateful for her incredible television career, particularly, finding her professional soulmates in both Regis Philbin -- whom she co-hosted Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee with from 1998 to 2000 -- and her Today show co-anchor, Hoda Kotb. 

"I knew it was the beginning of something huge because I met my doppelganger when I met Regis," she recalls. "I knew it. I met my creative equal. I felt that a few times in life. I felt that with Regis, I felt it with Hoda, although that took much longer. Regis and I were instant. But he'd been in the business, he was a performer like I was. Took longer with Hoda because she had to learn to trust her instincts."

"I knew it with [Then Came You co-star] Craig Ferguson and I knew it with [songwriter and producer] Brett James, musically," she continues. "Those four people in my life, without a doubt."

Last month, Kotb said that "every good thing" in her life came after meeting Gifford during her appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Watch the video below for more:

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