Kathie Lee Gifford talks 'crippling loneliness' of losing her husband and mother

Maeve McDermott

Kathie Lee Gifford is getting honest about the pain of losing her husband and her mother within a two-year span.

The "Today" show host's spouse, NFL player-turned-commentator Frank Gifford, died in August 2015, and her mother, Joan Epstein, passed away two years later. 

In an interview with AARP: The Magazine, Gifford discussed the loneliness of being a solo empty nester. Both of their children, 25-year-old daughter Cassie and 29-year-old son Cody, have moved out of their childhood home on Long Island.

"You battle a lot of things when you get older, especially as a widow, when you lose a spouse," Gifford, 65, said in the interview, which was picked up by "Entertainment Tonight" and AOL. "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."

She added, "I had to make moves and spiritual moves. You gotta make new memories or the old ones are going to kill you."

One of Gifford's big life changes is just weeks away: she is set to depart "Today" in April after 11 years. In February, she told her replacement, Jenna Bush Hager, "You have been such a role model and so generous with your time. You are beloved here in so many ways and if I can use some of your grace and have a half of what you’ve done, my life will be a very happy one.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kathie Lee Gifford talks 'crippling loneliness' of losing her husband and mother