Saturday, July 27, 2019


Chelise Stroud of Concord, California
Artist: Gaytha at Sacred Rose Tattoo in Berkeley, California

As our body journeys through life, and life journeys on our body, life will leave marks on us too. From the creases of our wrinkles to the birthmarks on our bodies to the tattoos we decide to place.
― Lauren Klarfeld, Author

I regularly feature posts on this blog about the beauty of suicide related grief, and the individuals whose lives have been touched by suicide in all different ways. I've featured photographs, jewelry, artwork, writing, and poems. However, if I did not include the indelible artwork of tattoos, I would not be doing justice to the topic of artistic beauty and power.

This topic is very personal to me. I have several tattoos myself. I have a tattoo that honors my mother and another one that honors my boyfriend who passed (both of whom died by suicide). I also have a tattoo that reminds me of the strength in living on after my own personal attempt. And finally, I have a tattoo that represents my dedication to suicide prevention and awareness.

The tattoos featured below are as varied as my own myriad of tattoos. Many of the tattoos are from survivors of suicide loss, however, there is also one tattoo from a person who has struggled with suicidal ideation, and there are tattoos from more than one survivor of an attempt.

I received permission from each person below to feature their tattoo. Note that unless a person gave me specific permission to use their name, I stated that the owner of the tattoo was anonymous. In addition, the photos are all non-professional. They are non-attributed because the photos were provided directly by the owners of the tattoos themselves. Although they are non-professional, the beauty and power of the pictures remains. Note too, I included any information I had, including links to the tattoo artist or studio (if I had that information).

As always when I work directly with those whose lives have been touched by suicide, I am always inspired by the courage they exhibit when sharing their stories.

Below, there are several tattoos that incorporate the handwriting of a person who'd been lost to suicide. One person used her husband's signature exactly as it was found on the goodbye note he left for her. "The last letter he signed." she noted.

Some of the tattoos are whimsical, others are far more personal. One woman shared the story of having been raped and suffering from trauma related thoughts of suicide. This is what she had to say about her design: "The tattoo reminds me that the past is the past and tomorrow is a new day."

I hope you enjoy seeing these tattoos and learning more about their meaning, as much as I did when putting this feature together.

Grace Macaluso, South Dakota

Grace is a survivor of suicide loss. She lost her cousin David Macaluso, and then 17 years later, lost a second cousin, David's brother John Macaluso. David was 20 years old when he died, and John was 31.

Meaning: Legend has it, when you see a cardinal, it represents a hug from a person who has passed away. This tattoo is located on Grace's upper arm, and the the addition of the butterfly is particularly meaningful, as the colors of teal and purple are often colors used to represent suicide awareness and prevention.

Chelise Stroud, Concord, California

I am a survivor of suicide loss and a survivor of a suicide attempt.
I lost my mother, El Collie Kress in 2002, survived a personal attempt in 2013, and lost my boyfriend, John Macaluso, in 2017.

Meaning: I was inspired to get this tattoo by my boyfriend's cousin Grace Macaluso. (See Graces's tattoo, above.) I too wanted a butterfly in the colors of suicide prevention.


Brittney, Ohio

Brittney is a survivor of suicide loss. Brittney lost her husband, Jake. Britney and Jake have a daughter who was not quite 4 years old when her father died.

Meaning: The colors used in the butterfly design were Brittney and Jake's wedding colors. The butterfly represents the beauty and significance of life and continuing forward. You can also see a semicolon in the design. The semi-colon is common image used in suicide prevention to symbolize the message that a person's story doesn't have to end.

Artist/Studio: Infinite Art Tattoo, Toledo, Ohio

Lisa, New Zealand

Lisa is a survivor of suicide loss. Lisa has lost eight friends to suicide, the two who were closest to her were named Jacques and Shan.

Meaning: This lovely tattoo incorporates a butterfly and again, the semicolon symbol.

Donna Biglin, Pennsylvania

Donna is a survivor of suicide loss. Donna lost her husband Tom. Of Tom, Donna says: "He was my best friend, my love, my soulmate."

This tattoo is located on the back of Donna's shoulder. To explain it's meaning, she says: "The Celtic heart/knot are complete loops that have no start or finish and represent eternity, whether this means loyalty, faith, friendship or love. Only one thread is used in each design which symbolizes how life and eternity are interconnected. My husband and I will always be connected. The dragonfly symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self realization; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life. It represents embracing change, strength and bravery."

Artist/Studio: Tyler Pawelzik, Black Casket Tattoo, Scranton, Pensylvania

Carrie Heward, Salt Lake City, Utah

Carrie is a survivor of suicide loss. She lost the love of her life, Justin Jones.

Meaning: "
Justin and I had a soul contract." Carrie says. "We were each other's first loves and reconnected after 20 years apart. We each had the weight of life to bear and he had been fighting for so long to stay. I thought love could heal him, but it at least gave him a moment of peace. After he died I knew he was still with me and as I searched for answers I connected to him through a medium and he confirmed that he will be watching out for angel. He has my back and he'll be watching over my shoulder always."
This tattoo is located on the back of Carrie's left shoulder. Carrie says that when people ask her why she didn't place the tattoo on the middle of her back, she explains that the wings are not her own - they belong to her angels.

Artist/Studio: Nate Yazzie, Chapel Tattoo, Salt Lake City, Utah

Donna Casados Sammelman, North Dakota

Donna is a survivor of suicide loss. She lost her husband, Brad.

Meaning: Like several of these tattoos, Donna's tattoo also incorporates the semicolon to represent suicide awareness and prevention.

The butterfly is located on this inside of Donna's wrist. Donna also used the colors of suicide prevention - purple and teal. Donna says this about the design:

"Butterflies for many represent the beginning of the New Year, signaling a sense of transformation - a time to evaluate life in its current state and set goals for manifesting change. The butterfly symbolizes transformation and joy."

At the bottom of the tattoo are the words Love Brad, in Brad's own handwriting.

Artist/Studio: Donna got this tattoo at a studio located in Jamestown, North Dakota.

Zoe Parkinson-Fisher, Canada

Zoe is a survivor of suicide loss. Zoe lost her husband, Quinton Fisher. Quinton was 25 years old when he died.

Meaning: Zoe explains"When Quinn died by suicide, the song “Fix You” by Coldplay repeatedly played in my head. So, I took the cards and flower cards Quinn had given me over his last year of life, and pieced then together to get the lyrics of the song 'and I will try to fix you,' along with the mental health awareness ribbon. I feel that Quinn walks with me every day, and it gives me comfort having a piece of him with me."

Artist/Studio: Paul at Stellar Studio in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Jade Wahl, Oregon

Jade is a survivor of suicide loss. Jade lost her husband Maxwell.

Jade says, "I chose this, because it was so beautiful, and in his last moments of weakness you can see the just how broken he was. His handwriting is shaky. This is the last time he signed his name. To say goodbye. And so I keep it with me forever over my heart."

Artist/Studio: Zack at Mr. Tattoo in Milwaukie, Oregon

Chelise Stroud, Concord, California

I am a survivor of suicide loss and a survivor of a suicide attempt. 
I lost my mother, El Collie Kress in 2002, survived a personal attempt in 2013, and lost my boyfriend, John Macaluso, in 2017.

Meaning: My boyfriend John was a huge fan of superheroes. I have always been a superhero fan myself, with Wonder Woman being one of my very favorite. John and I bonded over our love of superhero movies and folklore. When he died, I wanted a tattoo that would honor something that was special to both of us. The Superman design, with the Wonder Woman logo peeking out from behind it, seemed perfect.

The heart and swallow above the Superman/Wonder Woman tattoo, I've had for many years. I got it to honor my mother who died by suicide in 2002. My mother was a writer and writing was one of her most prolific sources of communication. Toward the end of her life, she and I were not in contact due to the complications of her depression. After she died, I was given her poetry books and writing, and I began writing more often myself. I felt we were reconnected again, because of writing. The words on the heart banner on the tattoo say: Ange Passe. This is a french expression that is used when you are in a public place that is noisy with lots of conversation, when suddenly, even just for a moment or two, there is a silence. The literal translation of Ange Passe is: An angel passing. The french believe that it is this angel that breaks the silence and facilitates people talking as normal, once again. I thought about this a lot, the fact that when my mother died, through my writing, she and I began to communicate one again. I liked the idea that her angel was encouraging me to keep writing.

Artist/Studios: Industrial Tattoo, Berkeley, California (superheroes)
                       Stay True Tattoo, Dublin, California (swallow and heart design)

Bridget Hale, Plumas Lake, California

Bridget is a survivor of suicide loss. Jade lost her husband Albert (Al) Hale III.

"The tattoo is the comic book version of Han Solo and Princess Leia. My husband and I loved those characters and loved everything Star Wars," Bridget explains.

Artist/Studio: Rocky, in Rocklin, California


This tattoo is on the leg of a fellow member of my SOLOS Spouses and Partners survivors of suicide loss group.

Deana Derossett Quinn, Farmer Citry, Illinois

Deana is a survivor of suicide loss. Deana lost her boyfriend Jeff.

Deana says, "Jeff was one of the most amazing men I had ever met. He was a grandfather to two beautiful babies. He was a father of two wonderful young adults. He was the oldest sibling of five. He was my best friend and I miss him terribly. I drew up the design myself and took it to my son-in-laws best friend to get inked."


This tattoo is on the back of a fellow member of my SOLOS Spouses and Partners survivors of suicide loss group.

Alexis Coleman, Virginia

Alexis has struggled with suicidal ideation.

"In 2016 i was attacked and raped. Over the past couple years I have been battling with being suicidal and wanting to and waiting to end my life. The tattoo reminds me that the past is the past and tomorrow is a new day."

Chelise Stroud, Concord, California

I am a survivor of suicide loss and a survivor of a suicide attempt. 
I lost my mother, El Collie Kress in 2002, survived a personal attempt in 2013, and lost my boyfriend, John Macaluso, in 2017.
Meaning: I got this tattoo several months after a suicide attempt. This is a Native American Design, a sun sign called a Zia. 
The symbol has a sacred meaning. Four is a sacred number which symbolizes the Circle of Life: four winds, four seasons, four directions, and four sacred obligations. This tattoo is located on my inner wrist. The spiral in the middle represents transformation. Whenever I look at the tattoo, I reminded that life is sacred and that nothing stays the same.

April Wright, Mayfield, Kentucky

April has struggled with mental illness. She is a survivor of suicide attempts. 

Meaning: April says, "
The tattoo is a constant reminder that it will be ok and I will come out on the other side ok. You have purpose in this life otherwise you wouldn't be here. We may never know that purpose and may not be meant to. I've had to come to this conclusion after several bad times in my life, but I hope my story can possibly save even one life. It will all be worth putting myself out there, if I can do just that.

I took a design similar to this out of a book (Project Semicolon) and altered it to how I wanted it. I took heart rhythm strips of actual rhythms and put them all together. The first being V-Tach, which in the tattoo, symbolizes the time in your life where your brain is all crazy and you're fighting 'the monster' inside your head because V-Tach is where your heart is beating in a crazy way and is not sustainable to life. The second is asystole, which sybolizes the period where you just give up and want to, or unfortunately attempt to end you life. I threw the semicolon into that part as it obviously symbolizes your story isn't over. The third rhythm is normal sinus rhythm, which symbolizes the period in your life after the crazy and hopeless points, where you see the light at the end of the tunnel, and see life can go on and you can and will be ok."

If you are considering getting a tattoo, I hope you find inspiration in the designs above.