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:
- 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
- Norfolk tattooist turns to art in lockdown - Eastern Daily Press - February 15th, 2021
- Tattoo artists reveal their worst mistakes ever and how the clients reacted - Daily Star - February 10th, 2021
- Student, 23, who cant tell her left from right gets L and R TATTOOED on her hands as a permanent reminder - The Irish Sun - February 10th, 2021
- Nine things tattoo artists hate clients doing when they get inked - Daily Star - February 8th, 2021
- Tattoo Studio Software Market Analysis, Size, Regional Outlook, Competitive Strategies and Forecasts to 2026 - AlgosOnline - February 6th, 2021
- Celebrating five of Salisbury's independent salons and shops - Salisbury Journal - February 6th, 2021
- Machine Gun Kelly Revealed That Pete Davidson Gave Him The Worst Tattoo On The Set Of "Big Time Adolescence" - BuzzFeed - February 6th, 2021
- Body Artist Brian Keith Thompson Talks Star Wars Influence - Monsters and Critics - February 6th, 2021
- Columbus rappers and engineers embrace work from home with new DIY spaces - Columbus Alive - February 5th, 2021
- Student, 23, who cant tell her left from right gets L and R TATTOOED on her hands as a permanent reminder - The Sun - February 5th, 2021
- Woman who has 'always struggled to tell right from left' gets them tattooed on her hands - Mirror Online - February 5th, 2021
- Two Singaporean women pioneering in the rise of hand-poked tattoos - News24 - February 4th, 2021
- The most basic tattoos artists secretly hate as they reveal the one inking they will NEVER do - The Sun - February 4th, 2021
- 'Basic' tattoos artists secretly hate doing - and the ones they'll refuse to do - Mirror Online - February 4th, 2021
- Keeping It Real - INKED - February 4th, 2021
- Pizza, tattoos and a smoke shop: 5 businesses coming soon to New Braunfels - Community Impact Newspaper - February 4th, 2021
- Six tattoos artists secretly hate doing and the offensive requests they refuse - Daily Star - February 4th, 2021
- Petition calling for reopening of body modification studios gains more than 10K signatures - CTV News Winnipeg - February 4th, 2021
- 'I'm healthy in every sense of the word': Young men on living life as HIV positive - The Tab - January 27th, 2021
- Hublot Expands Its Classic Fusion Orlinski Collection With Two New Ceramic Watches - aBlogtoWatch - January 27th, 2021
- Sterilize your knives and other kitchen utensils with just the push of a button - Yahoo Lifestyle - January 27th, 2021
- Ireland Baldwin Tugs Down Her Pants To Show Off Her Lace Panties, Butt, And Tattoo - The Inquisitr - January 27th, 2021
- Sherbrooke-based tattoo artists ready to get back to the studio - Sherbrooke Record - January 22nd, 2021
- Musician tattoos | Tats inspired by their own music - Alternative Press - January 22nd, 2021
- Tattoo Studio Software Market report has been assessed in accordance with the current Market trends 2020 - NeighborWebSJ - January 20th, 2021
- Tattooist publicly shames customer who tried to get away without paying 'due to Covid' - Mirror Online - January 20th, 2021
- The 5 Top Piercing Trends Pros Are Predicting For 2021 - Refinery29 - January 20th, 2021
- What it has been like to be a tattoo artist in Lincolnshire during the pandemic - Lincolnshire Live - January 20th, 2021
- Rhude Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear Collection - Vogue.com - January 20th, 2021
- New Mural in Brewery Block - Big Island Now - January 15th, 2021
- UD Artist Spotlight: Colleen Anderson The Review - University of Delaware Review - January 15th, 2021
- Tattoo artists share 6 of their favorite designs to ink, and 5 they don't really like - Insider - INSIDER - January 12th, 2021
- Parents cause outrage by subjecting their 7-year-old daughter to a tattoo on her leg - Explica - January 12th, 2021
- What it has been like to be a tattoo artist in Nottinghamshire during the pandemic - Nottinghamshire Live - January 9th, 2021
- Buzz in the CBD as Lismore inks in new tattoo studio - Northern Star - January 9th, 2021
- Ashley Martson removes tattoo dedicated to ex-husband Jay Smith - Monsters and Critics - January 9th, 2021
- ON THE RECORD: Harmonica man Sugar Blue and 'huh?' - The Sanford Herald - January 9th, 2021