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Why we're invested in seeing women like Kathie Lee Gifford and Paulina Porizkova find love after loss

Yahoo! Lifestyle logo Yahoo! Lifestyle 4/30/2021 Elise Solé
Kathie Lee Gifford talking on a cell phone: Kathie Lee Gifford is in a new relationship, six years after the death of her husband Frank Gifford. (Photo: Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic) © Provided by Yahoo! Lifestyle Kathie Lee Gifford is in a new relationship, six years after the death of her husband Frank Gifford. (Photo: Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic)

Kathie Lee Gifford, 67, has a new boyfriend nearly six years after the death of her husband Frank, a new beginning for the iconic television host who once claimed, “I don’t expect any man to ever fill my husband’s cleats."       

On Thursday, Kathie Lee delighted her former Today co-hosts by sharing, “I’m in a really special relationship with somebody that is nice and fun and healthy, and so that’s good." She continued, “It’s just happy, and I don’t want to mess it up, and I probably already have by just even mentioning it. To be in a place where you feel like every aspect of your life is good, that nothing’s missing, and that’s a beautiful place to be. I’m just so grateful.” 

Later, Kathie Lee told Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager of her boyfriend, "And we have a great time together, and so at this point in my life that’s exactly what I need and exactly what I want, you know? Different seasons of life — we weren’t meant to know each other before, it’s right now. We don’t know what the future holds at all, but we’re having fun today.”  

Other famous women have opened their hearts after loss — Paulina Porizkova, 56, is newly dating director Aaron Sorkin following the 2019 death of husband Ric Ocasek. "What am I looking for in a partner? Quite honestly, I don't know," the supermodel recently told Yahoo Life. While Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, 51, got engaged to businessman Tom Bernthal, five years after the death of husband Dave Goldberg. 

"When Dave died, I could barely imagine dating again, much less getting married," Sandberg wrote in a February letter to her fiancé published in Good Housekeeping. "Our story will never be Option A…Thanks to you, I have come to discover that Option B can also be filled with profound happiness."

Paulina Porizkova, Aaron Sorkin are posing for a picture: Paulina Porizkova and Aaron Sorkin are newly dating. (Photo: Chris Pizzello/Pool via REUTERS) © Provided by Yahoo! Lifestyle Paulina Porizkova and Aaron Sorkin are newly dating. (Photo: Chris Pizzello/Pool via REUTERS)

And two years ago, Katie Couric honored her late husband Jay Monahan, on what would have been their 30th wedding anniversary, with an Instagram tribute to her now-husband John Molner "who honors your memory and knows there is room in my heart for you both."      

According to Sherry Cormier, a certified grief counselor and the author of Sweet Sorrow: Finding Enduring Wholeness after Loss and Grief, it's not unusual to find or look for love after the profound loss of a partner. But romance is only one route. "Growth can also take the form of a geographical move, a social network or giving back to the community," she tells Yahoo Life. 

Although the "Five Stages of Grief" (denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) is often misattributed to those grieving, not the terminally ill, for whom the theory was proposed in 1969, grief isn't linear. "Healing is a cyclical process — like a tsunami or ocean waves," says Cormier. "It can be calm and placid one day and knock you down the next. But over time, the happier stretches are longer."

But no one "gets over" the death of a loved one. "We never get over loss," she says. "That's not the goal of grief counseling, but rather to integrate the loss into one's life." According to Cormier, some widowers find love more quickly than widows, yielding to their hunter-gatherer impulses. "And because men generally don't develop social skills as well as women, some rely on a female partner for that function," she says. However, men are increasingly seeking out grief counseling, which can fill an emotional outlet.   

So when women like Kathie Lee or Porizkova fall in love, it piques our collective interest. "In American culture, we love happy endings," says Cormier. "Even more so now, after through the pandemic — we're a bit starved for news like this." And when it happens to women in their 50s and 60s? "It represents the idea that growth after grief is possible regardless of age." 

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