Bethenny Frankel Weathers 'Emotional Storm' Mourning Dennis Shields

While she helps with relief efforts for Hurricane Florence, Bethenny Frankel says she's weathering an "emotional storm" as well in the wake of the death of her on-off boyfriend Dennis Shields.

"The work I am doing for hurricane relief is a good outlet, but I'm trying to not get too immersed and not avoid the grieving the process and feeling," Frankel told PEOPLE on Tuesday. "I am going through an emotional storm and must go through and not around it."

"People are suffering way more than I am," she added. "People have helped me get through my despair with their love and inspiration and now it is my turn."

Shields was found dead of a suspected overdose in his Trump Tower apartment on Aug. 10. He was 51.

Frankel, who helped victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and Hurricane Harvey in Houston through her B Strong Disaster Relief program, said Shields inspired her in her ongoing work for hurricane relief.

"He embraced and applauded everything I did and cheered me on from the sidelines," she said.

The Real Housewives of New York City star said that her volunteers are assessing which areas need the most help as they work. Even though the hurricane is over, flooding remains a huge threat.

"We are deciding where to land the plane and it changes minute by minute," she said. "The storm moves, the damage is everywhere, and we are determining where the most dire need is. My team is on the ground and the location changes daily."

Frankel said she reached out to 10 female celebrities — Sia, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Ripa, Katie Couric, Lea Michele, Lisa Rinna, Erika Girardi, Maria Menounos, Kyle Richards and Erin Andrews — and every one of them agreed to help right away. As well as raising $125,000, the women have also used their platforms and influence to inspire others to pitch in.

Frankel also said she's bringing her 8-year-old daughter Bryn, who also raised relief money with her classmates, to help on the ground in North Carolina.

On Tuesday, the reality star tweeted that she was "loading a plane with necessary supplies for pets, safety, medical, etc.," and asked for a contact to donate first aid kits.

Meanwhile, Frankel has resumed filming for RHONY, which means the upcoming season will likely follow her hurricane relief efforts as her struggles with her grief.

RHONY cameras also followed her to the launch of her Skinnygirl Jeans line at Macy's Herald Square in New York City last week. "It's definitely been a difficult kind of summer. I am thinking about Dennis today," she said at the launch. "He would have been so happy about this launch. He was the most excited when I was working and successful."


"He was a cheerleader, so he would have been counting the numbers and looking on the website and asking how many pairs of jeans and jean jackets we sold," she continued. "He is definitely with me here tonight."

Frankel and Shields, a banker, started dating in 2016 when she finalized her divorce from ex-husband Jason Hoppy, although she and Shields had been close friends for almost three decades. Their on-off relationship continued through the final months of his life; Us Weekly even reported that he proposed to the reality star in April.