Matt Mauser is marking the 1-year anniversary of the tragedy with Concert for Christina: A Musical Tribute and Fundraiser Benefiting The Christina Mauser Foundation on Jan. 26

By Kara Warner
January 26, 2021 08:00 AM

One year after their lives were forever changed by tragedy, Matt Mauser and his three children are slowly "finding happiness in each other."

"We're doing better in the sense that we're finding joy just being together," Mauser, 50, tells PEOPLE about the family's gradual healing processes, one year after the death of his wife Christina Mauser in the same helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, 13, on Jan. 26, 2020.

"We're by no means good, but we're definitely better," he says of life at home in southern California with children Penny, 12, Thomas, 10, and Ivy, 4.

Mauser, the frontman of Tijuana Dogs and Sinatra Big Band, is marking the one-year anniversary of his wife's tragic death with an uplifting event centered around his other passion: music. With Concert for Christina: A Musical Tribute and Fundraiser Benefiting The Christina Mauser Foundation, a private fundraising concert benefiting the Christina Mauser Foundation, Mauser hopes to raise spirits and funds for the foundation, which provides scholarships and financial aid to female athletes.

From left: Penny, Matt, Ivy and Thomas Mauser
| Credit: Jonny Marlow

"I don't know if you ever watched the old Jerry Lewis telethons. It's kind of in that [celebratory] spirit," explains Mauser. "We want everybody to come to it and see it live. It's uplifting, it's fun. We're going to celebrate in the best way."

The free concert, which will stream live on at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT tonight, will honor all of the victims of the Calabasas helicopter crash: Christina, Kobe, Gianna, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester Ara Zobayan, and will feature several special guest performers, including Mauser's daughter Penny.

"It's going to be a great time. We're going to raise money for women in sports, those who had all the qualities that Christina had, and help them get through school, high school, and maybe help some girls get into club sports," he says.

Matt Mauser
| Credit: Jonny Marlow

Mauser says that his family is grateful for the outpouring of love and support they've received over the last year, but the notoriety can be a double-edged sword.

"There's a part of you that just wants to kind of move on," he says. "Then there's a part of you that's glad your wife's and everybody else's legacy is being preserved, that people are still paying attention. But that's still very painful. Eventually, you have to heal. If you keep reopening wounds, it doesn't heal."

Mauser says each family member is finding his/her own way through their grief, which has included some counseling and a lot of good old fashioned family play time.

"I take the kids on little excursions, we love to play games," he says. "We have a little game that we play on the street called 'Around the Bases.' But you know what the best therapy is? We dance, we laugh, we tell jokes. The kids are funny! They do little skits. They have a session at night called 'Make Fun of Dad.' We all get to make fun of dad."

From left: Penny, Matt, Ivy, Thomas, Christina
| Credit: courtesy Matt Mauser

Mauser says he spends as much quality time with his children as he can.

"I lie in bed with them. I tickle them. It's all about affection and just being close to your kids," he says. "Showing up is 95% of the job. So I'm just present for my kids, that's all I can really do."

The family also has little rituals, both spontaneous and routine, that they do together to continue to celebrate Christina.

"Whenever we pray, we pray to mom, we're asking mom to guide us," Mauser says. "We talk to her through prayer. Sometimes you feel like she's closer than she's ever been, in spite of the reality. I feel like she's still with me, you know? I feel her presence."

"I want to kick down the doors of where we've been and start moving forward," he adds. "With Christina on our side, we're going to start living life again."

Concert for Christina will stream on on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.