Brittany Murphy's Mom Loved Simon Monjack 'Like a Son'

05/25/2010 AT 09:50 AM EDT

Brittany Murphy's mother Sharon has expressed her grief at the death of her son-in-law Simon Monjack on Sunday, just five months after his movie-star wife passed away.

"I loved Simon like a son, and he loved me like a mom. I've lost a son-in-law and a daughter, and I'm devastated," Murphy says in a statement to PEOPLE.

Roger Neal, a publicist for the Murphy and Monjack families, said Tuesday on NBC's Today show that Monjack, 40, was putting off heart surgery to focus on a September gala for the Brittany Murphy Foundation, which helps inner-city children discover the arts.

"He told me that he needed bypass surgery, and I said, 'You know, make sure you keep yourself healthy,' " Neal said. "And he said, 'I'll be fine. I just need to get through this gala. And once I do the gala, I'll have the surgery.' "

Neal spent time with Murphy and Monjack on Sunday. He said, to his knowledge, that Monjack, a British screenwriter, had not been abusing any prescription drugs – nor did he seem suicidal. In fact, Monjack had new horizons opening up in his life, including a theater company he had agreed to run.

"If you're going to check out, I don't think you have going what he had going," Neal said. "He was on heart medication. He knew his situation but put himself to the side because he wanted to fulfill that last part of the legacy for Brittany."

Asked how Sharon Murphy is faring, Neal replied: "I don't know if many of us could endure what she's endured in the last five months. She's incredibly strong, she has close friends around her. And I think more than ever she's going to be determined to make sure that the Brittany Murphy Foundation goes forward, that the gala goes forward."

He added: "She just needs her privacy right now, and she's taking it. She's distraught, but she's strong at the same time."

Reporting by Sarah Hammel

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