Complex Grief: ‘I Am A Little Damaged, But I Am Oh So Good’

By Ex Fabula | January 29, 2020

  • Nikotris Perkins at WPR's Milwaukee studios. (Maureen McCollum/WPR)

Nikotris Perkins at WPR's Milwaukee studios. (Maureen McCollum/WPR)

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We all grieve in different ways. It’s painful. It lingers. It’s complicated.

In working through her own grief, Nikotris Perkins recently wrote about the heartache of losing her daughter for the storytelling organization Ex Fabula. It was for the StorySlam event, “Damaged Goods” held in March 2019.

“I wrote it for that showcase in particular thinking about damaged goods,” said Perkins. “I think about how much I learned, loved, and see the world in a better place even though this still hurts. It’s still a really hard situation.”

Perkins said many people walk around invisible in their grief and it’s something we all need to be more cognizant of.

“Once there’s a funeral and a repass and lasagna that’s been dropped off has been eaten, the world around you just goes back [to normal],” said Perkins. “But people can be living for years trying to repair their lives from loss.”

While reflecting on writing the story, Perkins said, “I wasn’t necessarily trying to help people like, ‘Here’s a story that’s going to fix it for everybody.’ But it’s a reminder that people are walking around on earth saying, ‘Good morning,’ and eating donuts and dinner and coffee with you and figuring out so many things beneath the surface. The more we remember that, the better our relationships would be and the better we would treat people.”

Perkins wrote the following story — which starts with her singing Stevie Wonder’s “As” — for Ex Fabula.


As around the sun the earth knows she’s revolving
And the rosebuds know to bloom in early May
Just as hate knows love’s the cure
You can rest on mind assure
That I’ll be loving you always
– Stevie Wonder “As”

I sang that song every day for almost seven months.
I sang it in the shower.
I sang it while cutting veggies for dinner.
I belted it loud in the car.
And towards the end, Ari sang it with me.

Nikotris Ari Oya was born May 9th, 2018, but she never took a breath. I held her for hours after she was born and I was able to sing live for her before we parted ways for the final time. And it was in those moments, I learned that love could be still.

The deepest relationship I’ve ever had, Ari, taught me the complexity of love.
Love is warmth but sometimes it’s just a memory of warmth and damp and cold places.
Love is wide, wide open but often in the confines of a situation.
Love is peace, if only in your heart, while the storm rages around you.
Love, her love, was pure goodness and it left a wake of damage.

The love we shared, coupled with her passing, damaged a lot of things.
It damaged my hope.
It’s damaged many of my relationships.
It still shakes my optimism.
As a person that used to see the brighter side of everything, I’m learning that grief, which is many ways a demonstration of love, can shift or even damage perspective.
There are days when I’m elated the sun is shining.
And there are days when, though the sun is shining, I am walking around in darkness.

Ari didn’t just change me. She taught so many people.
She brought goodness out of people.
She reminded people of how precious life is and how important it is to live in motion, instead of watching the world go by.

Nikotris Ari Oya was the sixth Nikotris. She perhaps will be the last Nikotris.

In in her very short journey, she strengthened my village on my behalf.
She ensured that I understood my value in the lives of those around me.
And though the damage that has been done is irreparable, I know the goodness of love like I’ve never known it before.

My name is Nikotris Perkins and I am the mother of Nikotris Ari Oya.

I am a little damaged but I am oh so good.

Nikotris Perkins recorded a version of this piece for an Ex Fabula mini story video.


SONGS: “As” by Steve Wonder

“Untitled #2” by Alaskan Tapes

Ex Fabula

Ex Fabula

Since 2009, Ex Fabula has been strengthening community bonds through the art of true, personal storytelling. Ex Fabula, which is Latin for “from stories,” presents storytelling  workshops, StorySlams and Community Collaborations where people listen to each other, feel heard, and grow in empathy and understanding. Special projects like the Ex Fabula Fellowship, the Puente Project, and Equal Access use...

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