Life has been a roller-coaster of ups and downs for Arlene Last-Kolb since her 24-year-old son passed away, and not a day goes by without thoughts of Jessie.
For the last few years, though, Jessie has been permanently "with her," after she decided to get a tattoo in his honour.
"When you lose your child, you lose your feelings, so the tattoo reminded me that I can feel," she says.
The pain of grief, a process almost everybody goes through, is sometimes unspeakable and we all have our own way of dealing with it. For some, getting a tattoo representing a family member, a friend or even a pet is a crucial part of that process.
CBC/Radio-Canada gathered stories of mourning Manitobans like Last-Kolb in the first weeks of the pandemic, before public health measures were instated, to understand the meaning behind their body art and the growing acceptance of memorial tattoos.
On a warm evening in July 2014, Last-Kolb's life turned upside down when Jessie died of a fentanyl overdose.
Her son's death is an ordeal that follows her everywhere: in her everyday life, such as when she paints for fun; in her activism, as she fights for more effective support for people suffering from addiction; even when she's simply doing a puzzle at home with her husband, John, and a reporter meets her for the first time.
"Jessie was a good boy, funny and extremely smart," Last-Kolb says.
"That's just the way Jessie was. He saw a young boy on the Osborne Bridge who was going to be getting jacked [robbed]. He stopped his truck and went out to help him," she said.
Grieving will always be part of Last-Kolb's life. One way to overcome this obstacle has been getting a memorial tattoo, she says.
A tattoo in his memory covers Last-Kolb's forearm. Jeremy Blaze, the artist who drew it, knew her son very well and had tattooed him in the past.
"The tattoo represents who he was, a little bit about the tattoos he had on himself," Last-Kolb says.
Tattoos were important in Jessie's life, she says. The night he died, he was going to get a new one.
The memorial tattoos make her feel closer to her son.
From the drawing board to everyday life with a tattoo, memorial body art is an experience like no other for people who are mourning.
Each tattooing session is also unique for the artists, who often feel like therapists to their clients.
Over the years, Mark Mitchell played an important role in many Winnipeggers' grief at his Conspicuous Ink studio in the St. Boniface neighbourhood.
"It's always pretty emotional," says Mitchell, who owns Conspicuous Ink. "I've sat here and cried with my clients before."
Clients' requests for memorial tattoos are very diverse, he says. Some want an important date related to their loved one, while others ask for a drawing that represents a specific memory.
But one request seems more frequent than others.
"I think I do more for pets than I do for people actually, to be honest with you."
Today, Mitchell welcomes Carmen Davidson into his studio. She lost her dad, Allan, after his battle with cancer. She's not too nervous she already has nine tattoos. Yet she knows this one will feel different.
Davidson asked Mitchell to draw a piece that would represent Pink Floyd's classic Wish You Were Here a very important song for her dad.
"My tattoos tell the story of my life," Davidson says. "This one is just to remember how much my dad loved music."
Mitchell hopes his clients leave his studio with a positive feeling.
"Let's try and think of some things that, when you look at this, it brings back all the joy," he often tells them.
Memorials tattoos are a passion for University of Waterloo social work Prof. Susan Cadell.
She and her colleagues studied the impact of the art form and the reasons behind the artwork. They interviewed about 40 Canadians who chose tattoos as a part of their grieving process.
"I noticed that a lot of people were saying, 'I never imagined having a tattoo, but it felt right getting one to commemorate this person,'" she says.
While memorial tattoos have been around for ages, they are increasingly accepted in society, Cadell says. More and more workplaces accept tattooing in general, leading people to display them more.
For some, it is a gateway to tell their story. The subjects in her studies told her that this made it easier for them to relieve the pain.
"With our understanding of grief, we now know that death doesn't put an end to a relationship, but it changes it. For some, their tattoo is part of that new relationship."
Cadell's research found memorial body art breaks taboos. If themes such as mourning, overdoses or suicide were stigmatized in the past, the growing tolerance for tattooing has now lowered these barriers, she says.
She was "surprised at how people used their tattoos to engage sensitive conversations. That's what's great with it: it fights against stigmatization and pushes people to commemorate differently."
For some, a single commemorative tattoo is not enough.
A few days after showing us her first tattoo, Last-Kolb made a decision that will mark her forever: she wants a second tattoo in memory of Jessie.
This time, she plans a black ink tattoo on her hand. Every time she will look at it, she will see a rose, her son's favourite flower.
As she walks into Winnipeg's Blaze Ink Tattoo studio, she finally feels that this is a decision she won't regret.
Paul Stafford, the artist who accompanies her in this process, immediately wins her trust. Not only do they realize he knows friends of Jessie, he also takes a very reassuring tone while talking to her.
"It's the kind of tattoo that I want to take a little more of my time with," he says. "It is one of the most important tattoos you can make for people."
After an hour-long session, as she sees the final result, Last-Kolb is filled with emotion. It's even better than she expected.
"Feeling very close. I miss that. So this new tattoo really helps me."
For Last-Kolb, life goes on despite a pain that will always come to haunt her.
Through various organizations in Winnipeg, she continues to fight for families like hers, who fear for a loved one suffering from addictions or who have lost one. Among other activities, she regularly lobbies governments to facilitate access to drug addiction treatments, such as naloxone, an antidote that reverses the effect of overdoses.
And wherever she goes, she can find the strength to keep going by glancing at her tattoos.
Originally posted here:
Making grief visible: When tattoos help cope with the loss of a loved one - CBC.ca
- Hair stylist and cosmetic tattoo artist moves studio to larger space in Easton - The Morning Call - June 1st, 2021
- 'USA Ink': How tattoos have left their mark on our history, culture - Fox News - June 1st, 2021
- Justin Bieber and Drake's tattoo artist is the skin guru you need to know - Los Angeles Times - June 1st, 2021
- Penticton tattoo artist has dedicated his life to the craft - Penticton News - Castanet.net - June 1st, 2021
- Where Was Ninja Assassin Filmed? 2009 Movie Filming Locations - The Cinemaholic - June 1st, 2021
- Red Table Talk: Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow and Gammy Get Matching Tattoos - TooFab - June 1st, 2021
- Pittsburgh Pride Events Are Back, And There's No Shortage Of Ways To Celebrate - 90.5 WESA - June 1st, 2021
- Developments in Development: A new cafecito spot, La Muerte in the Mission, and affordable housing waitlist - Mission Local - June 1st, 2021
- Top International Fashion News of the Week | 30.05.21 - The Trend Spotter - June 1st, 2021
- Helping those who ensure dignity to the Covid dead - The Tribune India - June 1st, 2021
- Fantasy Island Reboot Teaser Arrives, a New Adventure Begins on Fox This Summer - TVweb - June 1st, 2021
- Briana DeJesus introduces her fiance Javi Gonzalez to Teen Mom 2 fans - Monsters and Critics - June 1st, 2021
- 15 places to check out on Sterling Road in Toronto - blogTO - June 1st, 2021
- Tattoo beauty strips in tiny tank top snap to show off hundreds of inkings - Daily Star - June 1st, 2021
- The CW Fall 2021-22 Schedule: The Flash & Riverdale Unite, 4400 Lands On Monday, Batwoman, Nancy Drew & Legends Of Tomorrow On The Move &... - June 1st, 2021
- Reality TV show focused on North-East salon returns for third season - The Northern Echo - May 20th, 2021
- Lil Uzi Vert and JT Appear to Have Gotten Tattoos of Each Others Names - Complex - May 20th, 2021
- Angels of the North series 3 confirmed as BBC show expands to to feature tattoo studio and gym - Chronicle Live - May 20th, 2021
- The dos and don'ts of aftercare to ensure your tattoo looks its best - Euro Weekly News - May 20th, 2021
- What's Open, What's Closed: Avoca Coffee, Italian cafe among new businesses headed to Denton this summer - Denton Record Chronicle - May 20th, 2021
- Tattoo Studios On Central, South Coasts Among Businesses Hard Hit By Pandemic, But Artists Excited To Be Back To Work - kclu.org - May 8th, 2021
- I got a hideous tattoo while on holiday. 20 years later, I've covered it up - CNN - May 8th, 2021
- Looking to get a tattoo? You're not alone. Artists say they're seeing increased demand, despite the pandemic. - Detroit Free Press - May 8th, 2021
- Looking to get a tattoo? Artists say they're seeing increased demand, despite the pandemic - USA TODAY - May 8th, 2021
- Sacramento County businesses are still expanding in the midst of a pandemic - American River Current - May 8th, 2021
- Drake Reveals Custom Rolls-Royce Cullinan And It Looks Mean - CarBuzz - May 8th, 2021
- Bloke gets tattoo of lawnmower inked on his head as tribute to tragic brother - Daily Star - May 8th, 2021
- Madonna Just Got a Red X Inked on Her Arm and She Drank Wine to Numb the Pain - Us Weekly - May 8th, 2021
- Inklanation Custom Tattoos & Piercings' 5 year anniversary with the Southport-Oak Island Area Chamber of Commerce - Cape Fear Business - May 8th, 2021
- See Dundee graffiti artists impressive 50-metre waterfront mural of the Tay Whale - The Courier - May 8th, 2021
- The Best of the South Sound 2021 - southsoundmag.com - May 8th, 2021
- Everything is Temporary at Ephemeral Tattoo - INKED - April 23rd, 2021
- Tattoo addiction: Is it real? - The New Indian Express - April 23rd, 2021
- People think theyre better than me or assume Im stupid because Im a single mum with 95% of my body cover... - The Sun - April 23rd, 2021
- Global Tattoo Studio Software Market 2021 by Production, Trends, Advancement and Growth Analysis with Forecast to 2028 Clark County Blog - Clark... - April 23rd, 2021
- In the Mix: Amy Leavell Bransford will expand Aviary to Summerhill - Atlanta Intown - April 23rd, 2021
- Find the best ink for you - Lithgow Mercury - April 23rd, 2021
- See how tattoo art has changed since the 18th century - CNN - April 5th, 2021
- A Conversation With Medusa Tattoo Studio: COVID-19 and Ithaca Tattooing - Cornell University The Cornell Daily Sun - April 5th, 2021
- See how tattoo artwork has modified because the 18th century - The Shepherd of the Hills Gazette - April 5th, 2021
- 5 Best Tattoo Artists in Indianapolis - Kev's Best - April 5th, 2021
- Get Inked At 12 Of Auckland's Best Tattoo Studios | Urban List NZ - The Urban List - April 5th, 2021
- Electric Tattoo: Love of art and 'forbidden fruit' drives Asbury Park studio - Asbury Park Press - April 5th, 2021
- The Vikings have invaded - but this time swapping swords for ink and tattoos - The Northern Echo - April 5th, 2021
- RIGHTEOUS TATTOO STUDIO - Home - March 9th, 2021
- Tattoos Utica, NY - Tattoo U Studio - March 9th, 2021
- Global Tattoo Studio Software Market is anticipated to grow at a strong CAGR by 2025 NeighborWebSJ - NeighborWebSJ - March 9th, 2021
- Who is Elle Kings husband? Know everything about the tattoo artist - Republic TV - March 9th, 2021
- Tattoo Studio Software Market Technology Progress, Business Opportunities and Analysis 2021 to 2027 The Courier - The Courier - March 9th, 2021
- Rachit Jadoun - A Professional Tattoo Artist Is All Set To Make His Name In The Industry - Social News XYZ - March 9th, 2021
- These Miley Cyrus Tattoos Are Dedicated to Her Exes - Showbiz Cheat Sheet - March 9th, 2021
- Ink Evolution - Flathead Beacon - February 20th, 2021
- Review: In a Promising Debut Feature, Test Pattern Chronicles the Search for Care After Sexual Assault - thirdcoastreview.com - February 20th, 2021
- The 50 Best Tattoo Parlours in America Big 7 Travel - February 17th, 2021
- Los Angeles Tattoo Shop Studio City Tattoo Los Angeles ... - February 17th, 2021
- Inkies Tattoo - February 17th, 2021
- Las Vegas BEST friendly and professional Tattoo Studio 21 - February 17th, 2021
- World Tattoo Studio Custom Tattoo Shop in Denver, Colorado - February 17th, 2021
- The Pittsburgh Tattoo Studio - Dormont Pa - Tattoo and ... - February 17th, 2021
- Vivid Skin Tattoo Studio - Home - February 17th, 2021
- Paramount Tattoo Studio - Piercings, Tattoos - February 17th, 2021
- Auckland Tattoo Studio | Otautahi - Unique Tattoos New Zealand - February 17th, 2021
- Tattoo Shop in Houston | Houston Tattoo Shop | Tattoo Shop ... - February 17th, 2021
- Home | InkBook Tattoo Software - February 17th, 2021
- Kenan Thompson says words were 'twisted' in controversial 2013 interview about the lack of Black women on 'SNL' - Yahoo Lifestyle - February 17th, 2021
- Charlie Cartwright: The Godfather of Black-and-Grey Fine Line Tattooing - Scene 360 - February 17th, 2021
- Tributes paid in memory of talented Blood Rush tattoo artist - Leighton Buzzard Observer - February 17th, 2021
- Artist and Influencer Mikey B Made It is legally trappin art from the hood to Hollywood - Press Release - Digital Journal - February 17th, 2021
- 14 up-and-coming queer Irish creatives to support in 2021 - http://gcn.ie/ - February 17th, 2021
- The Canvas Tattoo & Piercing Studio A tattoo and body ... - February 15th, 2021
- Tattoo Studio Game - Play online at Y8.com - February 15th, 2021
- Tattoo Studio | Virginia Beach | Whiskey River - February 15th, 2021
- REV23 - Tattoo & Body Piercing Studio Software, Apps ... - February 15th, 2021
- Firme Copias Tattoo & Art Studio - Best Tattoo Shop San ... - February 15th, 2021
- Aliens Tattoo | Best Tattoo Studio in Mumbai /India | Best ... - February 15th, 2021
- Tattoo artists share the common request many of them will refuse to do - Mirror Online - February 15th, 2021
- Blue Light Body Arts to open on the bricks in spring - Hays Daily News - February 15th, 2021
- Fire in tattoo studio in Husthwaite near Thirsk | York Press - York Press - February 15th, 2021
- Frosted Flakes: Kusche Sets Mile Record, Neanderthal Poop and a Very Good Dog - Corn Nation - February 15th, 2021
- 'My girlfriend thinks my tattoo is for her - I don't have the heart to tell her the truth' - Mirror Online - February 15th, 2021