Sandra Bullock is notoriously private about her personal life, but during a 2021 appearance on Red Table Talk, the Oscar winner, 59, opened up about her longtime beau, photographer Bryan Randall. Calling him the “love of my life,” she said raising their family together — her two children and his daughter — was “the best thing ever.” Asked why she and Bryan never officially got married, Sandy replied: “I don’t need a paper to be a devoted partner … I don’t need to be told to be ever-present in the hardest of times.”

She was true to her words. On August 5, Bryan, 57, died from ALS, and the world learned Sandra had stood by his side as he battled the devastating nervous system disease behind closed doors. “Sandra was there at every stage for three years. She knew his death was coming, but that didn’t make it easier,” a source tells Life & Style exclusively. “She’s heartbroken and still in shock that Bryan is actually gone. It’s a very difficult time. Her world was torn apart, and now she has to be strong and pick up the pieces.”

After her 2010 divorce from Jesse James — who had multiple affairs during their nearly five-year union — Sandra was committed to raising adopted son Louis, now 13, alone. That all changed in 2015 when she hired Bryan to photograph Louis’ birthday party and the two hit it off. “Sandra truly thought she’d never trust a man again,” says the source. “But Bryan gave her purpose. He opened her heart and helped Sandra heal.”

They were together by the time she adopted Laila, 11, later that year. Sandra has called Bryan — who was also dad to Skylar, 29, from a previous relationship — “the example … I would want my children to have.” And, reportedly at their kids’ request, the couple exchanged vows in 2017 at a small, non-legally binding ceremony in the Bahamas. “Bryan was a great father figure,” says the source. “He spoke to Louis and Laila and Skylar about his illness and the inevitable. It was heart-wrenching. The kids are coping, but it’s not easy because Bryan was such a light in all of their lives.”

Now the family is trying hard to keep it together. “Louis and Laila, Sandra’s sister [Gesine] and close pals are what helps her cope,” says the source of the “devastated” star. “Sandra will miss Bryan’s kind heart, how he patiently talked to the children, his long hugs, his infectious laugh and his beautiful smile. He was her best friend. Now she’ll strive to always keep his memory alive.”