A sunny beach day turned into a nightmare for Shannon Dingle her six children last summer.
Dingle’s husband, Lee Dingle, 37, was playing in the ocean with three of their kids when he was struck and killed by a powerful wave.
Just like that, the family's world turned outside down.
“We’d been together since I was 18, and he was 19, and we were very much connected," the 37-year-old from North Carolina told TODAY Parents. "I’m operating without a part of myself and it sucks.”
But some people think Dingle needs to keep her chin up.
Dingle, who frequently posts about her grief on social media, recently received an email from a woman named Rosanne urging her to smile more in pictures.
“Your new photo is depressing to look at,” Rosanne wrote. “I know you can do better than that. It was Lee who died not you.”
Dingle didn’t respond, but she did share Rosanne’s message on Facebook, along with some words of personal wisdom: “You are not required to smile for anyone or grieve accordingly to feedback from the cheap seats.”
“What she was saying was, ‘Hey, I’m uncomfortable with your grief. Can you change to make me more comfortable?’” Dingle told TODAY Parents. Dingle added that it's not just Rosanne who feels that way.
“I actually have friends who have kind of encouraged smiling or looking on the bright side,” Dingle said. “It comes from a place of genuine concern, but at the same time, it’s also about them feeling better. It makes them feel better if I smile so then they don’t have to be worried about me.
Dingle will continue to mourn her old life on social media.
Earlier this week, Dingle took to Facebook to express the sadness of celebrating her daughter Zoe’s birthday at one of Lee’s favorite restaurants. (“The place she chose has so many memories of him, from the chopsticks he loved to use and the mushrooms he’d eat that none of us like.")
Recently, Dingle opened up about missing intimacy, a topic that she says resonated with other widows. The only thing off limits are her and Lee’s children Jocie, 12, Patience, 12, Philip, 10, Robbie, 10, Patricia, 8, and Zoe, 8.
“It’s their story to to tell,” Dingle explained. “Three of them were in the water with Lee and two were watching on the beach, so they are processing through things that kids should never have process.”
Family friend Arinn Widmayer previously told TODAY that Lee was unflappable.
"He was the kind of guy you could count on for anything," Widmayer said. "Other dads will say, 'Oh, I need a break from the kids,' but not Lee. He much preferred to be with them. He was the consummate family man."
"I was spoiled," Dingle said. "Lee wasn't perfect, but he was pretty damn close."