Last August, the 51-year-old businessman was found dead in his Trump Tower apartment of a suspected overdose

By Dave Quinn
March 06, 2019 05:08 PM
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Bethenny Frankel is opening up about how the August 2018 death of her ex-boyfriend Dennis Shields has affected her 8-year-old daughter, Bryn.

The Real Housewives of New York City star, 48, gets teary-eyed about Shields on Wednesday’s season 11 premiere, in a scene filmed three weeks after the 51-year-old businessman was found dead in his Trump Tower apartment of a suspected overdose.

According to a clip from the episode released Wednesday, Frankel says she learned about Shields’ death from his daughter Tyler, who called her “hysterically crying.”

“I started screaming into the phone,” Frankel confesses to audiences. “I’ve never in my life experienced this moment, this feeling, this hysteria.”

As tough as it was to lose Shields, seeing how it affected Bryn was “another sucker punch,” Frankel says. She recalls to her friends how Bryn asked if Shields still had a phone number, and then texted him a message: “Hi Dennis, how are you doing today? We miss you. Kiss. I and [dogs] Biggie Smalls miss you as well. From, Bryn.”

“She said, ‘I miss you. I wish you were here today,’” Bethenny says, breaking into tears. “It’s so sad.”

Dennis Shields and Bethenny Frankel
Alessio Botticelli/GC

Frankel admits that she’s stopped trying to make sense of Shields’ death: “You know, someone told me he fell the day before on a boat and then, did he take something ‘cause he was in pain? But it doesn’t matter. He’s dead. Like, it doesn’t matter.”

“Let’s figure out what happened. Let me put the pieces of the puzzle together,” she says. “He wrote me 15 texts. He wanted to marry me. I had a ring on my finger. He’s dead. It doesn’t matter. He’s gone. There’s nothing to say.”

In August, Frankel spoke to PEOPLE about her loss. “It’s been very, very hard, I love him very much,” she said at the launch of her SkinnyGirl Jeans line. “He’s very much a part of me and he’s very much a part of this [launch]. He was very involved in my endeavors.”

“He would be so excited. I can hear him saying, ‘How many did you sell?’ and ‘I can’t believe you sold out.’ And he would be checking the numbers and checking the website,” she continued. “He’s here and I just know he would be so proud and a cheerleader.”

Of the grieving process, Frankel said: “It’s like [Hurricane] Florence, it’s a storm and you must go through it. It’s not one of these things you can avoid and you have to go through it and deal with it and hopefully, you come out stronger on the other side.”

Dennis Shields and Bethenny Frankel
Bravo

Frankel and Shields began dating in 2016 — three years after she filed for divorce from ex-husband Jason Hoppy, Bryn’s father. They first met nearly 30 years ago when he dated (and later married) Jill Shields, one of Frankel’s high school friends. Though Frankel did not stay in touch with her classmate (“We’ve spoken three times in 25 years,” she previously told PEOPLE), Frankel and Shields shared other mutual pals.

RHONY viewers are also familiar with Shields, as much of his and Frankel’s on-off relationship was documented on the Bravo series.

As sad as the loss has been, Frankel has found love again. She’s currently dating real estate developer and film producer Paul Bernon. The two made their relationship Instagram-official in December, when Frankel shared two photos of the couple celebrating Christmas together in the Dominican Republic. Frankel and Bernon went on to ring in the New Year together in Mexico, joined by Bryn and his two kids.

The Real Housewives of New York City airs Wednesdays (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.