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01/22/2016 11:03 am ET Updated Jun 01, 2017

Nate Berkus And His Husband Have A Beautiful Way Of Honoring Nate's Late Partner

In 2004, Nate's partner was killed in the devastating tsunami during their visit to Sri Lanka. But he is "definitely a part of" Nate's marriage to Jeremiah Brent.

In 2004, it may have seemed hard for Nate Berkus to imagine happiness making its way back into his life. That year, the interior designer had lost his beloved partner, photographer Fernando Bengoechea, when the two found themselves literally swept away by the devastating tsunami that struck Sri Lanka, where they were vacationing. More than 30,000 people in Sri Lanka died in the natural disaster; though Nate survived, the pain of losing Fernando was all-consuming.

“I have the grief to contend with,” Nate told Oprah shortly after the tragedy. “But I do believe that I survived so that I would have a greater understanding both of what I’ve had, what I’ve lost and what I still have to gain.”

Slowly, Nate did begin to heal, and even found ways to honor Fernando’s memory through the years. And perhaps no one is a bigger supporter of honoring Fernando’s memory than Nate’s own husband, Jeremiah Brent.

At their 2014 wedding, Jeremiah Brent told husband Nate Berkus that he honored every part of his past and everything he'd bee
Courtesy of Nate Berkus
At their 2014 wedding, Jeremiah Brent told husband Nate Berkus that he honored every part of his past and everything he'd been through, bringing many guests to tears.

Nate married Jeremiah, a fellow interior designer and the host of "Home Made Simple," in 2014. Oprah was a guest at the wedding, where Jeremiah's vows to Nate included a nod to Nate's past relationship.

"That's a part of our love story. There's no two ways about it," Jeremiah tells "Oprah: Where Are They Now?". "Yes, we're married this time, but [Fernando is] definitely a part of it."

He continues, "I oddly feel connected to him. I honor that story."

Nate Berkus and Fernando Bengoechea were both swept up by the 2004 tsunami during a trip to Sri Lanka.  Fernando di
Via "The Oprah Winfrey Show"
Nate Berkus and Fernando Bengoechea were both swept up by the 2004 tsunami during a trip to Sri Lanka.  Fernando died in the disaster.

Jeremiah is also determined to keep Fernando's memory alive for young Poppy, who Nate and Jeremiah welcomed via surrogacy in 2015.

"Our daughter will know who he was," Jeremiah says. "We have pictures of him in the home."

While Jeremiah's approach seems to be one that comes with relative ease, Nate says that his own reconciliation of the past was more of a struggle.

"I didn't know how to articulate what I needed from a new relationship," he says. "I didn't know how to articulate how to keep that and honor that, but still move forward without any guilt or any fear."

Nate Berkus credits husband Jeremiah Brent with helping him move forward in their relationship while still honoring Nate's la
Brian Killian, via Getty Images
Nate Berkus credits husband Jeremiah Brent with helping him move forward in their relationship while still honoring Nate's late partner, Fernando Bengoechea.

“I worry about anything happening to [Jeremiah],” Nate admits. “I worry, obviously, because I’ve had such great loss. I don’t want to go through that again ― no one does, whether you’ve had it or you haven’t.”

Turning to his husband, Nate continues.

“You were the first person to come into my life and not be threatened or afraid, not afraid to poke the damage and say, ‘That happened. Let’s talk about it. Let’s figure it out, and how can it be part of our world in a way that’s healthy?’” Nate says. “And so it is.”

Nate and Jeremiah’s full interview airs on this weekend’s “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”, on Saturday, Jan. 23, at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.

A previous version of this article stated that 400 people died in the tsunami. In fact, that number referred to the people in the Arugam Bay and Pottuvil region, where Berkus and Bengoechea were staying. The total death toll from the natural disaster was more than 30,000.

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