Tattoos are like place markers for memories that remind you of who and where you were at specific moments throughout your life. For me tattoos can also represent rites of passage, pain, and healing. I decided to get my lower back tattooed when I was going through an extremely painful divorce. The hardest part about my divorce was letting go of my relationship with my step-sons. Although I had hopped otherwise, I knew that there would come a point in which I would not be able to see them again (not by my choice). At the time, however, I could not physically or emotionally process this trauma. I needed to grieve but I also needed to remain strong for my own son to keep our lives moving forward.
I chose a ‘day of the dead’ skull design because the skull and flowers represent a way to remember those that we have lost. I had each of my sons choose a color for the larger flowers in the tattoo that would specifically represent them. Although I had one small tattoo done a year or so earlier, this tattoo was much larger and much more painful. When the artist began his work I was sure that it was the most painful thing I had experienced in my life up to that point!
Through the tattooing process I was able to experience intense physical pain but pain that I knew was only temporary. I knew that although it was difficult I could endure. I carried that strength with me beyond that tattoo shop. Because I could withstand that pain, I knew I could withstand whatever else life would send my way. I was able to recognize that pain is always only temporary and is followed by healing and strengthening. As my tattoo healed I healed. While my relationship with my step-sons is (temporarily) lost, I believe that my family was made stronger through this pain. Every time I look at my tattoo I am reminded that I am strong enough to make it through anything. I am certain that I will be getting more tattoos in the future and they will always hold special meaning. These memories, memorialized as tattoos, will transform my body into an archive of my life.