The other day, my daughter, husband and I were eating dinner at an Italian restaurant. I noticed a tattoo of a white snowy owl on the arm of our server. It extended along the inner arm, from the elbow down to her wrist and was beautifully done. When I asked the server about her tattoo, she said that it was in honor of her daughter who died. On the night that she died, the family saw a white snowy owl outside of her daughter’s bedroom window.
When I attended a grief support group after our daughter Lisa died, our leader always asked those in our group about their tattoos. Often, their body art was reminiscent of their loved one who had died. One young man told us the story of how when he got engaged to his girlfriend, he got a tattoo of the two of them holding hands in silhouette on his right bicep. After she died, he went back to the tattoo artist and got a black cloud with raindrops extending down from the cloud.
Another time, when we were out with our friends, I saw a tat on our server that appeared to be a whole sentence on her inner arm, extending from her elbow to her wrist. Again, upon inquiry, she shared that it was a sentence from a letter that her dad had written to her and the tattoo was an exact replica of his handwriting! How cool is that?
One final tattoo that really impressed me was a friend who had a small butterfly tattoo on her back shoulder. It was only about an inch in size, but done in brilliant colors. It was to commemorate her sister. The butterfly can symbolize a creature that goes from a caterpillar which lives on the ground which turns into a butterfly that soars through the heavens.
Grief can be expressed in many ways. I think that manifesting grief through art can be a healing and healthy way to work through the hurt and sadness. Whether expressing grief through music, painting and drawing, or tattoos it can help others to visually or acoustically experience one’s grief. And in turn, that witnessing person can walk along side of and support the grieving person.