Memorial Tattoos Are on the Rise. Here’s How to Choose One

Memorial Tattoos Are on the Rise
Photo by: Daisa TJ

Anyone who has suffered a significant loss knows that it changes you forever. Your grief becomes a part of who you are, even as you do your best to move on. Grief isn’t a distant memory; it’s more like a scar or, yes, a tattoo—something that is evident no matter where you go. Memorial tattoos, sometimes called grief tattoos, can help people heal. So, let’s talk about why tattoos can help you grieve and how to pick a tribute that will honor the departed.

The Role Tattoos Play in the Grief Process


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Sometimes, the worst part of grief is the feeling that a person or pet is gone. In French, the phrase “I miss you” (tu me manques) translates more literally as “you are missing from me.” And that’s how it feels—like a part of yourself is missing and gone. Memorial tattoos are a reminder that those who aren’t physically here anymore are still a very real part of you.

If you have tattoos, you are well aware of how many questions people ask about them and what they mean. Memorial tattoos provide an outlet to talk about what happened, which can help people move through the pain, especially those who aren’t typically prone to opening up. In fact, psychologists maintain that stifling your feelings prolongs the grieving process, so talking about your meaningful tattoos can help you move forward.

People who get grief tattoos aren’t necessarily trying to have an outward reminder of sadness. More likely, they like the permanent reminder of someone they loved dearly and brought them so much happiness. They can feel less absent when they are present on your body to see. For some people, it’s a permanent way to make peace with what has happened.

How to Choose a Memorial Tattoo

Faces, dates, and names are all common choices for memorial tattoos. Check out this beautiful portrait.


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Even celebrities have gotten into this trend, as evidenced by the fact that Chrissy Teigen and John Legend got matching tattoos of their late son Jack’s name. But what makes for the perfect memorial for your grief will depend on the kind of relationship you had with the deceased. If it’s too painful to see their face, a calligraphy-style tattoo of their name might be a more helpful reminder.

In other cases, a favorite picture is what you want to carry with your forever. The style is up to you, though, whether you wish to go for a realistic likeness or a more artistic, stylized rendition of the photo.


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Other themes are popular for memorial tattoos as well, like time, brevity, and the fragility of life. So, ideas like an hourglass or clock are popular. Sometimes, tattoo artists play with the idea that those who have died are free from their bodies, so birds flying out of a tree or a cage, or even balloons floating away are some excellent ideas.


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Consider that person’s interests. If you had a favorite activity to do together, that might be a lovely visual reminder of happy times rather than the sadness that followed their death. If you have old letters from them, you could even get a phrase they used to frequently say tattooed in their handwriting for a super personal tribute. Original, cliché-free ideas abound, if you look in the right places. No matter what you choose, a memorial tattoo can help keep your loved ones close to you forever.

Get inspired for your next piece in the Tattooed Women gallery!