Memorializing Loved Ones with Tattoos


BY: Diane Snyder Cowan, MA, MT-BC, CHPCA

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

Honoring the deceased takes various forms. Many bereaved young people have tattoos that memorialize their loved one. Getting a tattoo is often part of a ritual, and rituals are vital in grief work. Just as grief hurts, getting a tattoo is physically painful. In time grief softens, but it is always a part of you.

Tattoos itch and burn as they heal. The skin softens. The healing of the tattoo is a process just like grief. And when the tattoo is healed, it becomes a part of the body. The tattoo is a symbol of the continuing bond the bereaved has with the deceased. The deceased not only lives on in the griever's heart but also on their skin.

 Here are ways tattoos can memorialize the deceased:

  • The person's name, date of birth and date of death
  • Meaningful quotes and images
  • Hearts and hearts with wings
  • Portraits of the deceased
  • Religious symbols (anything from artifacts to praying hands)
  • "R.I.P." – To "rest in peace" is what most grievers want for their beloved
Memorial tattoos can play an important part in the grief process. They provide an opportunity to tell the story. Tattoos mark the change that has occurred, give visibility to the loss and help maintain a continuing bond.

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