People get tattoos for a variety of reasons. Some get inked to stand out from the crowd, while others get tattoos to share part of their identity with others. Sometimes people choose to get tattoos for complicated reasons, or they may get tattoos as part of their healing process. These tattoos are commonly referred to as therapy tattoos.`
One of the most widely-recognized therapy tattoos today is a simple punctuation mark – the semicolon. In writing, a semicolon can often be replaced with a period, but a semicolon is used to indicate that the author is not finished with the thought.
For those who have mental illness and have thoughts of suicide, the semicolon is a symbol of hope and perseverance. For someone who is recovering from trauma, a semicolon symbolizes that his or her life does not end with trauma. Their life continues after it.
Tattoos celebrating the strength of the human spirit
Others gain power from seeing words like “unbreakable” or “survivor” tattooed on visible places on their bodies. Perhaps someone would choose to get this tattoo after a lengthy illness. Some decide to get a tattoo like this after being the victim of a violent crime. Regardless of the reason, in moments of weakness and insecurity, the words act as a reminder of the strength of the human spirit.
Healing through pain
For some victims of abuse, the act of getting inked is just as important as the actual design of the tattoo. When people are abused, the pain that is being inflicted upon them is not their choice. When a person gets a tattoo, the pain that comes with it is their choice. In a way, the process allows them to take control of their bodies back from the abuser.
The act of getting tattooed forces people to learn to work through physical pain. It forces people to focus on their breathing and their thoughts. It can be quite a cathartic experience.
Tattoos as points of discussion
Tattoos are conversation starters. When you see people with military tattoos, you may ask the person about their years of service or where they were stationed. When you see someone with a tattoo of his favorite band, you may talk about how many times you have seen that band in concert. When someone has a semicolon tattoo or a tattoo with an encouraging message, others may recognize this as a call for help and talk about their own struggles.
A person struggling with mental illness may feel isolated in his or her pain. It helps to know that others share in the struggle to survive each day. Offering a few encouraging words to others can be life-changing. Tattoos open up this line of communication because without those symbols tattooed on a person’s body, how is a person to know that you are suffering?
You never know what the person sitting next to you is going through. The small tattoo that your coworker touches periodically throughout the day can be more important than you would think. Perhaps this person has an addiction he or she is trying to recover from, and the tattoo is a reminder to continue the fight.
Sometimes people grieve through their tattoos. Grief tattoos can take many forms. Some choose to tattoo a person’s name or face on their bodies with the birth and death dates underneath. Others prefer a more understated tribute. Perhaps a heart tattoo will remind you of your mom that you recently lost to heart disease. Maybe a gray ribbon will remind you of your sister you lost to brain cancer. Maybe you lost an infant, and feel comfort each time you look at the image of the angel on your arm. Perhaps you can get a tattoo of your loved one’s handwriting or signature.
People grieve a variety of ways, but one of the main components of grief is the fear that the person who passed on will be forgotten. A tattoo is a permanent reminder that your loved one lived and made a difference in your life.
Tattoos that display loss also help others who are going through the grieving process as well. Since tattoos are conversation starters, people may comment on your tattoo, which will allow you to share stories of your loved one.
Yes, people get tattoos for a variety of reasons. While some may associate tattoos with a rock and roll lifestyle, the reality is that tattoos can be part of the recovery process.