Bobbie Thomas makes first 'Today' studio appearance since husband Michael Marion's death

Two years after her husband's unexpected death, Bobbie Thomas is making an emotional return to the "Today" show's studio.

The "Today" style editor of 15 years had a teary-eyed reunion with anchors Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager on Thursday, offering an update on life since her husband died at the age of 42 in December 2020.

She said that "so many wonderful people have reached out" to her, including Kimberly Schlapman from the band Little Big Town. Schlapman's first husband Steven Roads died from a heart attack in 2005.

"Never in a million years did I think a country star would reach out to offer comfort," she said, adding that she and Schlapman bonded over feeling a lack of physical touch in their lives after their husbands' deaths. She said Schlapman recommended booking a massage to help cope with this aspect of grief.

"That was such a good tip for me," she said.

'Today' show style contributor Bobbie Thomas spoke out on Instagram following the death of her 42-year-old husband Michael Marion.
'Today' show style contributor Bobbie Thomas spoke out on Instagram following the death of her 42-year-old husband Michael Marion.

Inspired by the messages she's received from viewers since her husband's death, Thomas also announced she'll be hosting a new "Today" project called "Dear Bobbie," in which she will weigh in on submissions from viewers about their life challenges.

Thomas also shared her complicated feelings about returning to the "Today" studio in an essay published by the outlet Wednesday.

"I’ve walked into Studio 1A more than a thousand times, yet my knees already feel weak when I think about stepping back inside," she wrote. "It makes no sense, as I have never known such support as the support I received from my TODAY family. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s because I know the moment Jenna squeezes my hand, or Hoda, with her huge heart, looks at me and says 'it’s OK,' I will be exposed all over again."

'We were so deeply bound': 'Today' contributor Bobbie Thomas reflects on mourning her husband

She added that sharing her experience with others has helped her grieve.

"When I’m carrying pain all by myself, it’s heavy," she wrote. "But when I’m talking about it or helping someone else navigate theirs, it gets lighter. I feel better when I’m working to help others feel better. That’s my version of self-care and what brings me joy. It gives me purpose."

Thomas' husband Marion died after spending five weeks in the ICU fighting a bacterial infection that caused his organs to fail. He suffered an ischemic stroke a year earlier, but "Today" reports his death was unrelated to the stroke.

"I don't need to be told there was a silver lining or a bigger reason, there isn't. And that is OK for me to feel," Thomas told "Today" co-host, Hoda Kotb, in an interview aired in June 2021. "I have gratitude for being loved."

Thomas shared a photo of her and Kotb on Instagram at the time hugging, saying she hopes her story may help others in mourning feel less alone.

Thomas and her husband married in 2013 at former "Today" host Kathie Lee Gifford's house. At the time of their marriage, Thomas said she knew Marion had a rare disease that affected his immune system but said they were told the disease was manageable, making his death unexpected.

"Deep inside I knew that we may not be holding hands at 80, 90 (years old)," she said.

They share 6-year-old son, Miles.

'Today' anchors reunite for the first time in four months: 'I feel as close to you as ever, if not more'

Contributing: Elise Brisco

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Today's Bobbie Thomas returns to studio 2 years after husband's death