True love comes in many forms, some very unexpected. After losing his partner in the 2004 Asian tsunami, Nate Berkus did not imagine he would experience love again until he met Interior Designer Jeremiah Brent.
Nate Berkus' love story is one that began with immense pain, but like a fairy tale, it turned into a happy ending when he met the man that would "make his eyes shine again."
Berkus and his then partner, internationally acclaimed photographer, Fernando Bengoechea, were vacationing in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka, in December 2004 when a natural disaster hit the area.
Jeremiah Brent and Nate Berkus on April 5, 2018, in Los Angeles, California. [Left] Berkus and Brent's children Poppy and Oskar [Right] | Source: Getty Images & Instagram/Nate Berkus
SURVIVING A HEART-WRENCHING LOSS
The massive tsunami forced its way through their beachfront hut, sweeping everything in its wake. Berkus and Bengoechea surged through the force of the waves, managing to stay together for a while.
Unfortunately, they eventually got separated. Once the waves subsided, Bengoechea was nowhere to be found. He was reported missing, and his body never was found.
Nate Berkus at the Stella McCartney Event at Bergdorf Goodman on May 3, 2007. | Source: Getty Images
His family soon released a statement announcing that due to their futile efforts at finding Bengoechea, circumstances forced them to presume he had died in the tsunami.
Thus began a painful journey for Berkus. 2005 came by, and Berkus was numb with the pain of the sudden loss of his partner. He shared his painful journey, saying:
"2005 began with me lying in my bed, unable to eat, unable to string a sentence together."
After the tragedy, people flocked to his home to comfort him, and he kept receiving numerous letters and emails. But his heart remained heavy with grief. The interior designer had to face his fear a day at a time, and it was a tumultuous journey for him.
He shared that he barely remembers eating. He was living a nightmare, and grief poisoned his heart for months. However, nine and a half months after the tragedy, he found himself outside, at an evening "party" organized by one of his friends who had flown from London.
Also present was Bengoechea's ex-boyfriend. They were laughing and having a good time, and Berkus, against all odds, found himself laughing with them.
At that moment, something inside him switched, and he realized he did not have to live in grief and fear. He could be happy again. However, his lover's memories stayed with him.
He has continued paying tribute to Bengoechea over the years. In 2019, he posted a heartfelt Instagram post with a photo of Bengoechea posing in what appears to be a boat. The caption read:
"It's been almost 15 years since the tsunami when we lost Fernando. Every day I think of him, but especially today on his birthday."
Interior designer Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent on April 23, 2014, in New York City. | Source: Getty Images
OPENING HIS HEART TO LOVE AGAIN
For years after the tragedy, Berkus did not believe he could find love again. However, fate proved him wrong. He met Jeremiah Brent through Brent's former boss Rachel Zoe. In the beginning, they hung out as friends as they were both in relationships.
However, when they met two and a half years later, they were both single. They went on a fateful furniture shopping outing together. But a simple trip to look at antiques soon turned into something more.
Jeremiah Brent and Nate Berkus on September 12, 2019, in New York City. | Source: Getty Images
The pair soon realized there was something more going on between them. Brent says he was sitting and talking to Berkus when he discovered their connection was more than what it appeared to be on the surface. He recalled:
"There was something about him that, in his presence, I just felt so safe."
Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent on September 15, 2014, in New York City. | Source: Getty Images
The feeling was mutual, and Berkus says they both felt a massive energy shift. From their first date, Brent knew Berkus was "the one."
Surprisingly, they were not the only ones to feel the connection. Berkus says his mother also saw it and told him that the "light was back in his eyes."
Designer Nate Berkus, Poppy Brent-Berkus, and Jeremiah Brent on April 1, 2017, in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images
However, the feeling was not only strange to Berkus, who had filled the last decade with memories of the love that got away. It was also new territory for Brent. He shared:
"I didn't know that I could have a great love. I still have spent the last 10 years trying to articulate the way it feels to have somebody that you just know is right."
Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent and their children, Poppy and Oskar. | Source: Getty Images
Berkus and Brent had found each other, and they did not want to waste any more time. Less than a year after they went on their first date, Berkus popped the question atop Peru's Machu Picchu. They got married at the New York Public library in 2014.
In addition to building a loving marriage, the two launched TV shows together, including HGTV's "Nate and Jeremiah Home Project" and TLC's "Nate & Jeremiah by Design."
They are now also parents to two children, Poppy and Oskar. They named their son Oskar, Bengoechea's second name, to always remember him. Brent said:
"We have always honored Fernando's memory in our relationship. He's a part of our love story."
A BEAUTIFUL FAMILY OF FOUR
Berkus and Brent are not only experts in transforming spaces with their decorating and interior design skills. They are also doting parents to their two children. They welcomed their first, Poppy, via surrogate in March 2015.
The parents describe Poppy as having a "spunky personality" and being very particular about her likes and dislikes. Their second child, Oskar, arrived in March 2018, and like his big sister, he is also clear about his interests. According to Berkus, Oskar loves "yellow, mango, and cheese."
Parenting has been rewarding for Brent and Berkus, and their family's love continues to grow. Berkus disclosed that their children are both very "chill and calm." There have never been shouting matches at their house.
The beautiful family of four loves spending plenty of quality time together. Over the years, they have also noticed the impact of lights and smells on their kids. As soon as he wakes up, Brent lights candles and puts on some music. Berkus says of their kids:
"What I've noticed about them is they really connect to the energy of the home."
Berkus also helps the kids with their homework. He says he is embarrassingly "hesitant" with kindergarten math, but he faces it head-on. While parenting is not always a walk in the park, they have figured things out and now raise their children in a respectful environment.