37 Meaningful Grief Tattoo Ideas to Remember a Loved One | Cake Blog (2024)

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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.

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.

Jump ahead to these sections:

  • How Can Getting a Tattoo Help with Grief?
  • Symbol Ideas for a Grief Tattoo
  • Small Grief Tattoo Ideas
  • Large Grief Tattoo Ideas
  • Butterfly or Bird Grief Tattoo Ideas
  • Short Quotes for a Grief Tattoo
  • Other Grief Tattoo Design Ideas

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.

Symbol Ideas for a Grief Tattoo

37 Meaningful Grief Tattoo Ideas to Remember a Loved One | Cake Blog (1)

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.

5. Infinity

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.

Small Grief Tattoo Ideas

Sometimes, having a small grief tattoo is easier to keep your body art more discreet. Though a highly personal choice, some prefer something small that’s just for them. However, small doesn’t have to mean less significant. These small grief tattoo ideas are perfect for anyone.

7. Ribbon

First, a ribbon is a way to bring awareness to a specific cause. Commonly used to highlight support for things like cancer, illness, disabilities, and more. These ribbons are commonly worn as a sign of respect. Having one added as art to your body can be a powerful message.

8. Heart

Of course, hearts are a symbol of love and affection. If you’ve lost a piece of your heart, honor this loss with a special tattoo. Hearts come in all shapes and sizes, which is also an opportunity to express your specific tattoo style.

9. Dates

An alternative small grief tattoo idea is to consider any special dates. Birthdays, death dates, and anniversaries are all worth remembering for years to come. As a tattoo, a special date is discrete yet meaningful. No matter which date you choose, this is sure to be a unique reminder you wear with you forever.

10. Anchor

Anchors might seem simple, but they represent more than meets the eye. A symbol for all the things someone does to keep you steady, an anchor is a tribute to a beautiful life. Navigating rough waters is never easy, but you’re not alone. Your loved one’s spirit is always with you. Though your anchor might be gone, your life is still connected to those you love.

11. Circle of life

As shared in the Lion King, the circle of life is a special way to honor those you love. There are many special ways to decorate your circle of life, including flowers, dates, and vines. The world is always spinning forward. It’s up to you to live in the moment as much as possible with the time you have.

12. Roman numerals

Similar to numbers, roman numerals are a special way to commemorate an important date. You can use this for engagement, wedding, death dates, birth, and more. Because roman numerals have clean lines, they’re a popular choice for those who prefer minimalist tattoos. Roman numerals aren’t just trendy and artistic but also rich in meaning.

Large Grief Tattoo Ideas

Sometimes it feels important to create a large tribute to someone you’ve lost. Not only does this attract more attention, but it gives you greater space to design something special. These large grief tattoo ideas below remind you that those you love never leave you. Though not for everyone, a large grief tattoo makes a big statement.

13. Portrait

When someone passes, we miss seeing their face as part of our regular routine. While pictures remind you how much they mean to you, some prefer to have something even more permanent. A loved one’s portrait is a tattoo you carry with you always. The right tattoo artist can do an amazing job replicating small details to bring your portrait to life.

14. Compass

Next, a compass is a special symbol of love. While feeling lost without your loved one here is normal, you can still find your way. A compass is a reminder that the path before you is always smooth. Let this be your guide, no matter how intricate or detailed your compass becomes.

15. Feather

Feathers are a well-known symbol of Heaven and angels. In the Christian faith, people believe feathers signify someone is watching over you. Stumbling upon a feather in your daily life is a good luck charm, so why not have that feather become a part of you forever? Not only is this a stunning image, but it’s also a discreet way to keep your loved one in your thoughts no matter what.

16. Dog tag

Common after the loss of a loved one who served in the military, a dog tag is a beautiful reminder of someone’s service to his or her country. A dog tag is a way to identify those who serve in the armed forces. Though carrying a physical dog tag with you might not always be possible, it does make a beautiful tattoo.

17. Hobby scene

If your loved one enjoyed particular hobbies, honor this special interest. Hobby items like fishing poles, cars, or baking supplies are all powerful reminders of who your loved one was. How we choose to spend our limited time makes all the difference. You can make it count even if this isn’t a hobby you enjoy.

18. Flag

Finally, a flag can also be a unique tribute if your loved one is a proud supporter of a specific country or group. A sign of patriotism and strength, flags are always a way to show togetherness in honor of a loved one. Whether you choose a US flag or an organization insignia, it means a lot to keep their spirit alive and well.

Butterfly or Bird Grief Tattoo Ideas

Butterflies and birds have long been a symbol of grief and loss. Fleeing and beautiful, what better way to show the power of someone’s legacy than through a symbol of nature? Though you’re free to choose any butterfly or bird that speaks to your loved one’s story, these ideas below are particularly special.

19. Hummingbird

To begin, a hummingbird is a beautiful and fragile bird that perfectly represents the fleeting nature of life. Though life might be short, it’s still just as beautiful and meaningful. Though discreet, these are a subtle way to highlight the beauty of life. What better way to honor your loved one’s legacy?

20. Dragonfly

As a symbol of change, rebirth, and living in the moment, dragonflies are a stunning way to honor the nature of life. Iridescent and fast, they flutter through the world without interruption. Though dragonflies only spend a small portion of their lives flying, they are always on the move.

21. Butterfly

In many cultures, butterflies are associated with resurrection and the soul. They not only can represent deceased loved ones, but they can also be a way to highlight someone who loved the insect themselves.

22. Ladybug

Similarly, a ladybug is a sign of good luck. They can also be a way to represent that a loved one has moved on to Heaven. If you’re missing someone close to you, this reminder will make a touching tribute.

23. Dove

White in color, doves represent peace, freedom, and love. Commonly appearing in religion as signs of peace and trust, this devotion matters. Whether you see doves as a sign of mourning or strength, they’re a lovely way to honor your loved one’s legacy.

24. Swallows

Since swallows fly away in the winter and return in the spring, they’re a symbol of fresh starts. For those experiencing grief, a swallow is a reminder that life continues. Seen as a sign of good fortune in different parts of the world, they bring happiness and luck. For example, a farm without swallows is experiencing poor luck.

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.

25. ‘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.

26. ‘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.

27. ‘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.

28. ‘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.

29. ‘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.

30. ‘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

37 Meaningful Grief Tattoo Ideas to Remember a Loved One | Cake Blog (2)

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.

31. Footprint

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.

32. Pawprint

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.

33. Flower

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.

34. 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.

35. Heartbeat

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.

36. Handwriting

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.

37. 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.

  1. “4 in 10 U.S. Adults Have a Tattoo.” Cosmetics Industry in the US, Statista, 26 June 2017. Statista.com.
37 Meaningful Grief Tattoo Ideas to Remember a Loved One | Cake Blog (2024)


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