When we lose someone we love, it's hard to come to terms with never being able to see them again, be with them, or hear their voice. Having a permanent, present reminder of their memory can bring a lot of peace after a loss, and this is why grief tattoos are so popular.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How Can Getting a Tattoo Help with Grief?
- Symbol Ideas for a Grief Tattoo
- Short Quotes for a Grief Tattoo
- Other Grief Tattoo Design Ideas
A grief tattoo is a type of tattoo that’s intended to honor someone’s legacy. Whether you’re capturing a favorite memory, quote, or name, this is something you hold close for the rest of your life. It’s even possible to create tattoos with cremation ashes.
As more and more young people get tattoos and they become more socially acceptable, these types of memorial tattoos are on the rise. Not only is this a public way to show grief, but it’s a way to express yourself. In this guide, we’ll share some of the most meaningful grief tattoo ideas to remember a loved one.
How Can Getting a Tattoo Help with Grief?
Why are tattoos such a powerful form of remembrance? First, the popularity of tattoos is rapidly rising. Amongst adults aged 18-69, a reported 42% of adults have at least one tattoo. Nowadays, many adults are open and excited about tattoos, and this means they’re more accessible.
Grief is different for everyone. Finding your own journey through grief is part of the healing process, and many find comfort through tattoos and memorial art. Here’s how tattoos can help with grief:
- Control: When you experience grief, it can feel like you’re losing control. Getting a tattoo is a way to control this feeling and harness these emotions of loss into a single act.
- Sharing: It’s not always easy to share your grief or talk about it openly. By getting a visible tattoo, you open a discussion for others about your loved one.
- Tribute: Because there are almost no limits to what you can tattoo, you can honor someone in a unique way. Whether you use a memorial tattoo quote or a special symbol, this is a unique way to honor someone’s legacy.
- Part of us: Most importantly, a tattoo becomes a part of you. Because this lives quite literally under your skin, it’s a part of your own story that you carry with you.
While a memorial tattoo isn’t for everyone, it can be a meaningful form of legacy. Discovering what tattoos have significance to you and how you’d like to express your grief is all part of the personal process of healing.
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Symbol Ideas for a Grief Tattoo
If you’re considering a grief tattoo, exploring common symbols is a great way to find inspiration. These symbol ideas below offer more than meets the eye, making a great option for honoring a specific type of loss.
1. Cross or religious symbol
A cross or other religious symbol is a common way to show your religion. For those who lost someone of a specific faith, evoking this symbolism is a way to honor their beliefs. Many people feel comfort through religion, so this is an easy choice.
2. Lotus flower
A lotus flower is a common symbol in eastern religions, but it’s also popular amongst all religions. A lotus is a flower that grows in water.
It’s adapted to suit a number of environments, growing peacefully in streams, rivers, and ponds. Throughout history, this flower became the symbol of enlightenment and peace, the perfect reminder of comfort after a loss.
3. Tree of life
Though Gaelic-Celtic in origin, the tree of life tattoo represents the world we live in. Our world is a connected, spiritual place. The tree of life shows our connectedness to nature, eternity, and wisdom, highlighting that death is just a natural part of life.
4. Yin and yang
Related to Taoism and Confucianism, yin and yang are all about opposites. One side cannot exist without the other. Just as day can’t exist without night, happiness can’t exist without sadness. This complementary duo reminds us that there is always balance and peace to be found.
The infinity symbol is a common grief tattoo. This sign represents togetherness and eternity, mostly used to honor a love that will never end. Though you might have experienced loss, your love is endless and unyielding.
6. Angel wings
A common miscarriage tattoo, angel wings or angel tattoos are a way to express the return of a loved one’s soul to heaven. Though they’re no longer here, their soul is at peace. Having the reminder that a loved one is watching them from above is a way to find peace.
Short Quotes for a Grief Tattoo
Another common grief tattoo is to share your favorite quote. Perfect for a memorial wrist tattoo, these quotes honor your relationship, loss, and memory with each word.
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7. ‘Always on my mind.’
When you lose someone, their memory is always with you. Even if you’re not actively experiencing grief, their memory is still held close in your thoughts. This quote makes it clear that they will never be forgotten.
8. ‘In my heart.’
Having the reminder that someone’s memory stays alive in your heart forever is a source of peace. Though they might no longer be on this Earth, they are alive forever in your heart. This makes them a part of your story.
9. ‘Angel by my side.’
Those we love never leave us. They linger at our sides, watching over us for the rest of our days. Envisioning them as an angel by your side is a form of comfort and peace.
10. ‘Let it be.’
Like the Beatles’ song, “Let it be” is a reminder to honor each and every day. Life is a gift, and it’s important to use your loss as a reason to live life to the fullest. “Let it be” is a way to honor their legacy through your own actions.
11. ‘You’re with me wherever I go.’
After a loss, you’re never really alone. Your loved ones remain with you in your thoughts and memories. This reminder quote is a powerful way to keep them close no matter where life takes you.
12. ‘The hardest goodbye.’
Saying goodbye is never easy. It’s OK to admit that these losses are hard. Saying this specifically can be its own form of comfort, reminding you that your “goodbye” is never over. It’s in each and every day.
Other Grief Tattoo Design Ideas
Lastly, if none of the above ideas fit your loss or wishes, consider these alternative ideas below. Finding your perfect grief tattoo is about discovering what relates the most to you.
A small tattoo idea is a footprint. This is used most often for newborns or infants who are gone from the Earth too soon. The grieving parent benefits from having their beloved child’s mark on them for the rest of their days.
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Similar to a footprint, a pawprint is used to honor a pet. Ideal as a cat or dog memorial tattoo, each pet leaves its own mark on our lives. Keep your cherished friend with you for the rest of your time with this memorial idea.
There’s an entire language to flowers. By capturing the right bloom, you say something that’s hard to put into words. Whether you choose their favorite flower, a bright red rose, or a sunflower rising towards the sun, this is a touching tribute.
16. Important date
If you’re not interested in a quote tattoo, a similar idea is to choose an important date. This could be their birthdate, anniversary, death date, or anything that has meaning to you. Though subtle, this is a way to hold their memory close.
A heartbeat is a symbol of life, but it can also be a symbol of loss. When combined with a loved one’s name or another important symbol, this EKG visual is a reminder that life is fleeting but powerful.
If you’re lucky enough to have a bit of a loved one’s handwriting, such as from a card or letter, this makes a unique memorial tattoo. Capturing their words in their own handwriting means a part of them becomes a part of you forever. Our penmanship is a unique way we express ourselves, so this is a one-of-a-kind memento.
19. Moon and stars
Lastly, a moon and stars encourage us to think further. When we look up at the night sky, it’s only natural to feel wonder and awe. Remembering that our loved ones are a part of that greater legacy can be a source of peace. We are, after all, made of stardust.
Honor Their Legacy with a Tattoo
Tattoos are an up-and-coming way to honor someone you’ve lost. Tattoos are a way to express yourself with permanent artwork, too. Taking the time to consider a grief tattoo that captures how you feel is one of the best ways to find peace after a loss. Though there is no one-size-fits-all grief tattoo, the memorial ideas and symbols above have helped many people understand their grief.
You never know where life will take you, but you can keep your loved ones close no matter what. Having their story become a part of yours gives your grief a new space within you, weaving them into your everyday life.
- “4 in 10 U.S. Adults Have a Tattoo.” Cosmetics Industry in the US, Statista, 26 June 2017. Statista.com.