Bobbie Thomas Vows to Find a 'Purpose for My Pain' as She Returns to 'Today' After Husband's Death

More than a year after her husband Michael Marion tragically died at the age of 42, Bobbie Thomas is rejoining her Today family and sharing her new normal with viewers

Bobbie thomas
Photo: Zach Pagano/NBCU

On Thursday, Bobbie Thomas will return to the Today show for the first time in just over a year and she says she's "terrified."

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be the first time the mom of one has physically been in the New York studio in two years. But, more importantly, it will be 16 months since the style editor has appeared on the show as a regular.

It's a bittersweet return and marks the next phase in her life since her husband Michael Marion's tragic death in December 2020. Marion was just 42.

"To be honest, there's a real anxiety and sadness about going on the show because, in a lot of ways, it's like having to really accept that life is officially moved on," Thomas, 47, tells PEOPLE. "He's not coming back and in a weird way, when somebody takes that time to step back, I could be in that bubble and protect it."

Thomas adds, "And getting back on the show, I haven't done that since he was here. So now it's like, 'No, he's still not here and I'm moving forward.' So, it's really scary."

As Today fans know, Thomas' life changed forever when her husband of seven years died after a bacterial infection led to organ failure. The year before the lawyer suffered a stroke that left him struggling to walk. His death left Thomas alone to raise their son Miles, who is now 6.

Navigating her grief amid the pandemic, at a time when people were isolating to stop the spread of the disease, was particularly hard. "Cruel," is the word Thomas uses.

"God, it takes me right back," she says. "My family was in Los Angeles." Thankfully her in-laws, whom she describes as "selfless," were on hand to love and support her. "I lost Michael and it hurts and I would never ever want this, but I gained 10 people [who] jumped into his spot and I know not everybody has that."

Bobbie Thomas
Bobbie Thomas and her son Miles with her in-laws, her husband Michael Marion's parents, sister, niece and nephews. Courtesy of Bobbie Thomas

Still, Thomas missed the simple things that the pandemic robbed millions of people of. Hugs, touch, the ability to cry on the shoulders of friends and co-workers — the normal ways that communities grieve, were denied to her and others.

"I knew firsthand how many people were out there feeling isolated," says Thomas, who recalls how members of the public reached out to her to share their stories.

Despite her anxiety about returning to Today, those feelings of loss and isolation are what motivate her to return with a new vision. "I do feel blessed for understanding this new sort of layer in my life, this new experience," says Thomas who goes into more detail in a March 2 essay that she penned for

"I just really want to boomerang back with my whole heart. I feel like I've always been looking to extend myself as a girlfriend. I've called it a 'professional girlfriend' – whether it was talking about the power of lipstick or helping to navigate something else in the lifestyle arena," she explains.

"For me, what pushes me is knowing that I'm not alone. And I think the outpouring of love that I was really lucky to have and grateful for because of this platform has just pushed me to find purpose for my pain," Thomas adds.

Bobbie Thomas
Thomas is returning to TV with renewed vision and purpose. Courtesy of Bobbie Thomas

While beauty and style are still close to her heart, her new projects on Today will be informed by her loss and inspired by her late husband as well as who he was to her. "He made me feel so beautiful and so loved, and really saw so much further than I did in life," she says of Marion. "And so, even though it was just devastating, I still have him, the essence of him and that gift.

"And that is what gets me up in the morning. I don't care, they can send me on a hot air balloon, upside down, across the country to give a monkey a hug. I will."

To that end, while Thomas doesn't know exactly what format her on-air projects will take, she does encourage viewers to contact her through Instagram to share their stories "Everybody just wants to feel like they're seen and they belong," she says, later adding that the message that she plans to share when she returns on Thursday is a simple one: "I care, I see you and let's figure out a way to help people feel good."

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