Jean Smart Recalls Losing Her Husband of 35 Years: 'It Doesn't Make Any Sense' (Exclusive)

"It was such a shock. It was so unexpected," says Smart of her late husband Richard Gilliland's death

Jean Smart has begun to put her late husband's death into perspective.

In PEOPLE's exclusive look at the May 17 episode of Who's Talking to Chris Wallace?, Smart, 72, reflects on the March 2021 death of Richard Gilliland, with whom she shares sons Forrest and Connor.

When asked to describe how "devastating" Gilliland's unexpected death from a heart condition was for their family, Smart refers to it as "the worst."

"Because it was such a shock. It was so unexpected," she explains. "And, you know, I thought he had COVID or something. The places I took him to, to get him tested. Didn't do anything except a COVID test."

<p>Gilbert Flores/getty</p> Jean smart with her two kids Forrest and Connor in April 2022

Gilbert Flores/getty

Jean smart with her two kids Forrest and Connor in April 2022

Related: Jean Smart Says Being a Single Mother Has Been 'Unimaginable': 'Hardest Thing I've Ever Done'

Smart says she "went back to one of those places" to speak to the person in charge after her husband's death.

"I said, 'Let me ask you something,'" she recalls. "I said if I brought my 71-year-old husband in here, who was complaining of pain when you take deep breaths, and I said, 'What would you do for him?' He said, 'Well, [the] first thing we do is an AKG.' I said, 'He died last week. Why didn't you do that?'"

Eric Charbonneau/WireImage Jean Smart and Richard Gilliland
Eric Charbonneau/WireImage Jean Smart and Richard Gilliland

Related: Jean Smart Reveals Hacks Director Went into Labor While Shooting the Show: 'Very Dedicated'

After Wallace adds that a loved one's death is something "you're never over," he asks Smart if she's found a way to "put it into perspective and move on."

"Yes, just this year, it's been three years, which sometimes I cannot even believe," she shares, noting that it's something different than losing a parent.

"I've lost a sibling. That's a different, whole different experience. Losing your mate of 35 years. I mean, literally half my life I lived with him is just kind of indescribable," she continues. "And it just you go through this period of thinking it's just not real. It's just this isn't real. You know? This just doesn't make any sense."

<p>Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage</p> Jean Smart at a

Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage

Jean Smart at a "Hacks" season 2 premiere event in May 2022

Smart, who underwent a heart procedure in February 2023 and an appendectomy later that summer, previously told PEOPLE that her husband's death made her "dramatically" change how she treated her own health.

"It just made more sense for me to get smarter about my health decisions," she shared with PEOPLE in September 2023. "I'm the one running the show now, completely on my own, and if something happens to me, what happens to my kids?"

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