Christian celebrity Kathie Lee Gifford lost her beloved husband, Frank, in 2015. Since then, she’s been through a lot of ups and downs. And a recent interview with AARP gives us a glimpse into the thoughts of Kathie Lee Gifford on the ‘crippling loneliness’ of being a widow.
Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford were married for 29 years before Frank passed away at age 84. Like any marriage, the couple experienced ups and downs. But when Frank died suddenly in their Connecticut home, the loss was devastating for Kathie Lee.
Still, in what most people would call a tragedy, faith helped Kathie Lee Gifford see God at work.
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“A 4-year-old girl having cancer is a tragedy,” co-host Hoda Kotb recalled Kathie Lee telling her after Frank’s death. “His life is a triumph.”
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While Frank’s life had ended, Kathie Lee realized she had to keep living hers.
"You have a moment where you just accept that you are a widow,” Kathie Lee told Hoda. “It looks weird to you for the longest time. You don't define yourself that way."
So, Kathie Lee put on a brave face and forged ahead. She returned to work about a week after Frank’s death and kept busy starring in and directing a movie called "Love Me to Death".
But as anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows, time eases but never erases the pain. And in a 2019 interview with AARP The Magazine, Kathie Lee finally opened up about what life was really like after becoming a widow.
Kathie Lee Gifford On ‘Crippling Loneliness’ She Experienced
One of the biggest places Kathie noticed Frank’s absence was in their Connecticut home.
“I didn’t have a reason to have to stay in this big house anymore,” she said. “I found myself dealing with crippling loneliness.”
Kathie Lee knew she couldn’t just wallow in self-pity and goes on to explain, “I had to make a move to someplace physically, and I had to make emotional moves and spiritual moves. You gotta make new memories or the old ones are going to kill you.”
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And it’s not just Frank’s death that for Kathie Lee Gifford brings on ‘crippling loneliness’.
“You battle different things as you get older, especially as a widow, you battle the loneliness when you lose a spouse,” Kathie Lee said. “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.”
But Kathie Lee is working hard to choose joy over grief. And in her search to identify the things that bring her joy, she’s also figuring out some of the things that trigger that overwhelming sense of loss. For example, sunsets.
Why Sunsets Are The Saddest Part Of Kathie Lee Gifford’s Day
People don’t usually associate sunsets with sorrow. Their beauty often makes them a favorite time of day. But for Kathie Lee Gifford, sunsets are some of the saddest moments of her day.
That’s because of the memories they trigger.
“Sunset used to be a huge thing in our family,” she said. “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.”
But now, “sunset alerts” just remind Kathie Lee that she is living alone.
“Now I still say it out loud to the puppies. We still go and do it, but sunset alerts are some of my saddest moments when it’s just me and the dogs at home.”
Those are the kinds of moments anyone fighting through grief will experience. And that’s when Kathie Lee encourages others to choose joy.
“If you’re not careful, what you’ve lost in life can define you,” she says. “It’s so much better to be defined by what you still have, it’s just healthier. 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.”
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Another place where Frank’s absence can really be felt is at social engagements.
“When you’re part of a couple, you don’t realize that the whole world is just made up of couples,” she said.
For 29 years, Kathie Lee attended events with Frank by her side. But now, it’s just her.
“And all of a sudden, you’re that odd number at a dinner party,” she explained. “You’re the fifth, seventh, ninth person at the table. They’re always making an adjustment for you.”
Kathie Lee certainly seems like she could easily be the life of any party. But becoming a widow has made it tougher for her to enjoy social gatherings the way she did previously.
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“So I didn’t want to go out and go alone to things,” she said. “I go to professional things alone, but nothing social. I just wasn’t comfortable. And I didn’t want people giving me that widow look. ‘Oh, how are you? Are you OK?”
Kathie Lee Chooses Joy Over Despair
The transition from two to one certainly stirs up that feeling of loneliness. Thankfully, Kathie Lee Gifford had friends and family to support her.
“My dearest friends during my darkest, darkest time, which was last year, my dearest friends already knew I was going through a terrible time. A desert,” she said.
And Kathie Lee Gifford’s story of battling loneliness is so inspiring because she can use it to encourage other people dealing with grief.
It’s not always easy to see the light when we are in the valley. Sometimes you have to pursue joy. And there’s only one place it can be found — in Jesus Christ!
No matter how hard things get, Kathie Lee recognizes that those feelings of loneliness and despair don’t come from our Creator.
"God is not the enemy of joy,” Kathie Lee says. “He is the creator of joy! We got a lot to rejoice about. You wanna fly, you wanna soar, you want to dream big dreams and see them come true? You need to partner with the right person: only Jesus."
Kathie Lee has her faith to remind her she’s not alone. So, as a widow, an orphan, and an empty nester, Kathie Lee will keep on choosing joy over loneliness.
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"My joy is non-negotiable,” she says. “I tell you, that's the beginning of bliss in life. You understand where your joy comes from and then you protect it with everything in you. I want to be purposeful every day of my life - every moment of it."
If you or someone you know is battling grief today, we sincerely hope Kathie Lee’s inspirational short story brings you encouragement!
“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4
Featured Image Credit: Facebook/Kathie Lee Gifford
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