Tattoos are moving from the counterculture into the mainstream, and as more and more people get inked, they’re discovering just how personal and emotionally significant a tattoo can be. That especially applies when the tattoo is in memory of a loved one. Check out our gallery of some of the best memorial tattoos.
Paris Jackson remembered her famous father, “King of Pop” Michael Jackson, with a new tattoo of the cover art from his 1989 album “Dangerous.” It’s a work in progress, with another session still to follow during which shading will be added.
Lady Gaga has two memorial tattoos. One is a peace sign in memory of John Lennon, pictured here. Lennon and the Beatles are among the artists who inspired Lady Gaga’s own musical career, and she grew up near the famous Strawberry Fields memorial to Lennon in New York City’s Central Park. She also had David Bowie’s face inked on her ribcage shortly after his death.
Miley Cyrus has two memorial tattoos — one, in memory of a friend and two grandfathers who died of lung cancer, says “Just breathe.” The other, pictured here, is in memory of her dog Floyd, with an image of the pup and the words, “With a little help from my fwends.”
Kanye West lost his beloved mother, Donda West, in 2007. Of the experience, he later said, “It was like losing an arm and a leg and trying to walk through that.” In 2016, he got two tattoos on his wrists – one with his mother’s birthdate in Roman numerals, the other with his daughter’s.
Chloe Grace Moretz remembered her grandmother with a memorial tattoo on her ribcage. It reads, “Janette Duke” — her grandmother’s name — in script.
Adam Levine is known today for his many tattoos, covering his arms, back, and beyond. But there’s a first for everything — and Levine’s first tattoo, a dove surrounded by cherry blossoms on his shoulder, was a memorial to the victims of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He later told People, “I was 21. It was five days after 9/11. I felt this need to say something with this peaceful thing on my body.”
Lea Michele has two memorial tattoos. The first is in honor of her “Glee” costar and boyfriend, Cory Monteith, who died in 2013. The tiny tattoo is simply the number 5, which was the jersey number of Monteith’s football-playing character. “For my quarterback,” she commented when she debuted the tattoo on Twitter.
Lea Michele’s other memorial tattoo is a miniature coffee cup on her finger, remembering her grandmother. Her Instagram post included the explanation, “I lost my beautiful grandma this week. She wasn’t your typical grandma. She gave me my first cup of coffee when I was 8 years old.”
Sheila E. collaborated extensively with singer-songwriter Prince, as well as briefly dating him. After him unexpected death, the drummer paid tribute to her friend with a tattoo of his infamous Love Symbol, topped with a butterfly in his signature color of purple.
Travis Barker is one of the most-tattooed celebrities in the business. The Blink-182 drummer has memorial tattoos for DJ AM, with whom he collaborated; personal assistant Chris Baker; and his mother, pictured here. In a Mother’s Day Instagram post, Barker wrote, “Happy Mother’s Day to the most amazing woman/Mom ever. That’s her in the middle, she passed away the day before high-school when I was 13. I was devastated to say the least and have thought about her & missed her everyday since.”
Jennifer Aniston is an animal lover who memorialized her dog, Norman, with a tattoo of his name on her foot. It was her first-ever tattoo, chosen when she was devastated over the loss of her 15-year-old pet. She told Entertainment Tonight Canada, “It’s just my way to pay homage to him … forever.”
Bobbi Kristina Brown lost her mother, legendary pop diva Whitney Houston, just a few years before she herself passed away. But six months after her mother’s death, Bobbi Kristina and her boyfriend, Nick Gordon, got matching tattoos of Houston’s initials, surrounded by birds. In her Instagram post, she commented, “now your truly ALWAYS with us mommy.”
Kelly Osbourne found a dear friend in comedian Joan Rivers, and she was devastated when her friend died. The white-ink bumblebee tattoo she got just a month and a half later was in Rivers’ honor: “‘If you looked at aerodynamics, at science, the bumble bee should not be able to fly. Physically, it was just not anatomically equipped to soar. Yet it did, defying gravity, defying logic. The bee was a creature that defied and beat the odds, a miracle.’ Thank you for being my Miracle @joanrivers.”
Demi Lovato memorialized her father a few months after his 2013 death with a tattoo of the Roman numeral III on her wrist. She told Craig Ferguson it was her father’s number, and though she revealed to Good Morning America that she and her dad had their differences, “at the end of the day he’s still my dad and I grew up with him and he was a wonderful person.”
The other tattoos in this gallery honor beloved people and pets, but the semicolon tattoo is a different type of inked memorial. It memorializes a victory over a difficult time in the wearer’s life — perhaps a time of depression or self-harm — which could have been the end, but instead became a pause. Their lives continue after their pauses, just as a sentence continues after a semicolon.