For Teresa Giudice, going to prison wasn’t the worst experience of her life.
The Real Housewives of New Jersey star says the death of her mom, Antonia Gorga, earlier this year -- at the age of 66 -- was the toughest thing she’s ever been through. That loss is heavily chronicled in her latest book, Standing Strong, out now.
“I lost my mom [and] that got me really upset and angry,” Giudice tells ET. “That's what made me open up, because I feel like I lost out, those 11 and a half months that I was in prison, you know, [spending time with] my mom.”
“I could've been with my mom those 11 and a half months,” she reiterates. “I got really angry and I expressed myself, and I guess all those feelings came out, which I have to say was really therapeutic.”
“I feel like it was good to get it all out,” she adds. “I guess it was something that needed to come out ... it was one of the worst times in my life. I would go away 20 more times than, you know, not to lose my mom.”
Earlier this month, Giudice and her family celebrated her mom’s first birthday since her death. Giudice admits it was another tough day, for everyone.
“I'm still numb over it,” she shares. “I still feel like it's not real. Like, I was just in London and as soon as I got there, matter of fact -- as soon I as landed in L.A. -- I dialed my mom's number. So, I feel like it's still not real to me.”
“The day of her birthday, that morning I got woken up and I heard this animal in my room, with this, like, screeching sound,” Giudice recalls. “I'm not kidding, I thought there was some kind of animal in my room. I put the flashlight on, you know, on my iPhone and I was trying to see what it was. I think it was my mom, like the first time I feel like she came to me ... I do feel like that was my mom that day.”
Giudice says she, her brother and their dad visited her mom’s gravesite on her birthday for a private celebration.
“My father brought her favorite muffin, with a candle,” she shares. “He blew it out. It was just a very emotional, stressful day ... It was a hard day.”
Giudice’s father, Giacinto Gorga, moved in with her and her four daughters after her mother’s death.
“He's doing OK,” Giudice says. “I keep him busy with the girls. He is really sad and misses my mom tremendously, you know … I mean, they were married 47 years. He knows her since she's 13.”
Giudice says this season of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, airing Wednesdays on Bravo, has been one of the toughest to watch, because it kicked off with her mother’s funeral.
“I still haven't had the chance to enjoy the show, just because it's been one thing after the other,” she laments. “And I have to say this season, if it wasn't for the other girls, like, they helped me get through it, 'cause otherwise I think I would've just crumbled after losing my mom. They helped me get through it, and they kept my mind busy.”
For more on the new season of RHONJ, check out ET’s chat with Giudice’s co-stars, Dolores Catania and Siggy Flicker, in the video below.