Grief introduces heart pain at an entirely new level. The finality of death carves out a huge hole in the heart that can physically ache. Just as loss of a close loved one tattoos grief on the heart, some teens choose to display it as body art. Both tattoos and grief are permanent. Yes, they both may hidden, but both become part of the teen’s identity and leave a lasting mark. Both have a story to tell. Grief changes people, a tattoo can mark that change.
“My emotional world changed forever last summer. Now, my body has changed forever, too. I wear my tattoos proudly, symbols of my mom’s pain, of the strength she had to muster, of the catharsis I sought in the first year I’ve spent without her.” Cara.
“Getting memorial tattoos is often a ritual. We know about the importance of rituals in grief work. Many folks go to the tattoo parlor with friends or family which builds the sense of community. 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 a tattoo is healed, it becomes a part of you. 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.
Memorials tattoos can play an important part in the grief process. They open up the conversation to telling the story. Tattoos mark the change that has occurred, give voice to the loss and help maintain a continuing bond.” Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center Blog. By Dscowan. June 10, 2013 Hospice of the Western Reserve
The tattoo of grief holds deep meaning, it becomes part of the identity, and it will soften over time and is permanent, though the intense feelings are temporary. Just as the grief itself holds deep meaning, and though permanent, its intensity fades into part of the art of who the teen is and will be for the rest of their lives.