Embracing The Itch: Why Tattoos Are Like a Broken Heart


Why the heck do tattoos have to hurt so bad? “Well Genius, ” I bet you are saying, “you’re getting a bunch of needles, duh!” But hey, listen, it’s not just the tattooing part. It’s finding a way to sleep comfortably by not putting pressure on the part that now pains you, it’s showering and not accidentally letting hot water hit it directly, its people slapping you on your arm not knowing that you are aching. And then,  finally, there’s the annoying itch that lets you know that you are healing.  There’s this entire healing process that you go through, and while some handle it better than others, but healing is a must and it happens if you’re healthy.

So, I got this tattoo last week. A pretty bird to memorialize a friend, “Bubby”,  that I lost on Christmas Eve, last year. See?


My Bubby Bird



Bubby” and I weren’t “bff’s”, but we grew from teenagers singing in community choirs together to somehow ending up working together, in the same department, on the same team. He was just one of those people. I felt that his presence in my life was fate, and that fact alone made his passing so unexpected.  What adds to grief sometimes is that everything around you goes on as if this person (or in some instances, your relationship) is still with you–it’s a gut-wrenching, sometimes most annoying reality! And while I’m usually pretty good with handling loss as a result to death, “Bubby” dying seemed so unreal to me that I thought I would never get over not being able to send him a simple text message saying, “Hey Boo, I miss you.” I thought a part of me would always hurt.

But the other day, while I sat there getting one of the most painful body art pieces that I’ve gotten yet (out of 11), I realized that I hadn’t gone to his Facebook page to stare at his picture or write on his wall in a while. I used to do it every day, but it has been a little while since I said, looking at the sky, “Damn Boo, I can’t believe you’re not here with us.” I looked down at the first installment of a bigger collection of tattoos (a  half sleeve), and I felt, instantly, a tiny tug at my heartstrings; The small tinge of grief I felt also made me  realize that living my life in a world without my friend didn’t hurt as much as it did before, although I still missed my seeing my friend’s lovely face, hearing his sweet voice, and watching him inhale whole boxes cereal on a half an hour lunch break, but now I accept that the life that I have left will not include “Bubby “. *Sigh*

The point of it all is this: The thing is that the acceptance came without me even noticing. Clearly, I noticed the way it felt someone sucker punched me in the tummy when my (then) supervisor broke the news. There was no way that I could deny the way I walked around that department floor like a zombie for weeks to come, and how my heart got heavy when I found out that my friend actually moved a block away from my new apartment–just thinking of all the fun and food we would have shared hurt me for a while. I realized that a tattoo is sort of like loss–whether it be death or the loss of a love that you thought would be around forever; just like a tattoo, the people that we lose may leave an imprint on us for the rest of our lives; it may hurt like hell for a while (just figuring out a way to sleep without that person can be a daunting task), the world goes on around you without any idea of the pain you feel (sometimes they even throw salt in your wound without even knowing it); but if you are emotionally healthy, just like a tattoo, there is what I will now and forevermore call “The Itch,” that is lack of comfortability–but not quite pain–that lets you know that you’re healing…Unexpectedly, a song may play on the radio, or a fragrance, or a dream can remind you of that person, that causes “The Itch”, but they cross your mind and you feel something. It’s only natural, but as you feel, don’t forget to follow that feeling with gratitude, honor, and joy, because if it’s itching, it maybe uncomfortable, but it doesn’t hurt like it did yesterday.  And here you thought it was going to hurt forever:-) “The Itch” lets us know that we are healing! Celebrate!

While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates.  You must wait till it be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it.  ~Samuel Johnson


2 thoughts on “Embracing The Itch: Why Tattoos Are Like a Broken Heart

  1. Keitera

    Dee Dee,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece. Its ironic that I see this today, as I am looking for artists to draw a memorial piece for my grandmother. When she got sick and passed it was all in a weeks time. That hit hard, but not seeing her hit me harder. I truly do believe that people that have passed walk amongst us and watch over us. So, although our loved ones are not here physically, they are in spirit. Keep the good times alive. I will share with you what I wrote to my grandmother for her obituary ..

    I know that great blessings are followed by great challenges. Although, this time without you has been hard and I feel like a piece of me has been taken away. I want you to know that I’ve been given the greatest comfort that God can bestow unto any human; memories. I will take a moment as often as I’d like to visit with the wonderful memories I have of you and you will NEVER be forgotten.

    I wrote that to say that comfort comes in a days time. Death is hard, but living life is harder especially a great impacting life. Your friend left his mark with you and he will live on through you.

    • Keitera, thanks so much for taking the time to express your feelings. I mostly believe that there is no such thing as irony anymore, just God speaking, showing and teaching.

      I’m sorry to hear about your loss. But as you said, we do have angels watching over us. I feel like they leave residual, a little of this a little of that to guide us and keep us along the way, without making a spectacle of themselves. I do have dreams about family that has passed on, and I always wake up with a great deal of comfort, which leads me to believe they weren’t dreams at all…

      Yes, Bubby left his mark. Have you ever met someone that had a spirit that screamed peace and joy? He was like a cool breeze. Sick often, but never complained…and could eat like a horse and gain no weight…Ah, I miss that boy so much, but I will never forget him. Nope…Please stop by again…


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