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tattoo, memorial tattoo, inked, Crimson Knight Tattoo, Jose Cruz, miscarriage, loss tattoo

When a Tattoo Heals Your Heart after a Loss

by Deborah Cruz

Today is November 24th and for the first time, in a long time, I don’t feel lost. For me, it’s an annual day of retrospection; of looking back at what could have been, what might have been and, honestly, what should have been. While many of you are coming out of your tryptophan coma this morning or maybe sleeping off the remnants of yesterday’s all night Black Friday power shopping, I’ll be marking time but I won’t be sad. Not today.

Today, I pause to remember. In the past that could have meant many different things. Some years, it involved pills or booze to numb the pain and a day in bed. Some years, it meant Netflix and sobbing or a welcomed distraction. Some years, I hardly remember at all. Some years, it felt like the anniversary of the end of the world. But none of it ever seemed real because, though my heart shattered from the pain of the reality my mind was never quite able to digest the loss of what my eyes never got to see, what my arms never got to hold and what my lips never got to kiss.

I never got to touch his cheek. Kiss his warm gooey forehead. I never got to smell his head or feel his heartbeat beating next to mine. I never got to feel him wiggle in my arms. I never even got to see his eyes fixed upon me suspended beyond all space and time like only a newborn child can do to his mother. I got nothing. I was cheated in the worst possible way.

I felt failure. I felt like I had a very vivid bad dream. The worst dream ever. The dream in which every possibility of happiness was on the horizon and just as quickly snatched away. I felt empty and sad and mad and angry. I wanted to punch the world and sob and be held and left alone, all at the same time. But I never had closure. I know now that I never will. There is no closure for this situation. It’s an open-ended question of what might have been.

Worse, I had nothing. In many ways, it feels like he only existed to me, like some cruel imaginary friend, a figment of my imagination conjured up just to break me down. It felt like to everyone else…everyone…he was nothing more than a glob of cells and he was gone before most knew he even existed. No harm, no foul. But there was. I was harmed. I was egregiously fouled. He was real, as real as my other 2 children are to me.

You know how I spent that first November 24, 2012? It was Thanksgiving, I hosted 40 people. It had been 6 months since my miscarriage. I had to go on living. But on that day, my heart was raw. I was vulnerable and my sanity was being held together by a stick of bubble gum and a tic tac. It wasn’t going to hold.

I just kept telling myself, you just have to make it through dinner. Then it happened. My 1-year-old nephew was running around my house when my someone (I’m not naming names because it was a total accidental foot in mouth moment) looked directly at me (on November 24, 2012), and said, “Don’t you miss the sound of little feet running around your house?” I was dumbstruck. I couldn’t speak, for if I did, all the tears that I’d been holding back for the past 6 months every time someone said something stupid, or I ran into a pregnant friend, or baby Center send me an alert would surely come pouring out and drown me dead right there on the spot.

I knew I needed something, more than fragility as a souvenir of my third child. I needed a way to move through this grief without losing my mind. I decided that I a permanent mark on my body that reflected the permanent mark on my soul. I didn’t want closure. I wanted something more but, at the time, I wasn’t even sure what that was.

After 5 years, I knew what I wanted and I knew I had to have it before November 24th (what should have been a birthday). I was compulsive in my pursuit. My brother, Jose Cruz, an established tattoo artist obliged my desperately grasping heart last Friday. I needed this like I need air to survive.

tattoo, memorial tattoo, inked, Crimson Knight Tattoo, Jose Cruz, miscarriage, loss tattoo

What was this life-altering body modification? It is a story, wrapped in a metaphor and held by my heart. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Explanation; the big bird is the Big Guy, the next bird is me, the third bird is our Gabs and the fourth bird on the branch of our family tree is our oldest, Bella. We are all looking in the direction of the tiny baby bird, that we never got to hold, as he flies away.

tattoo, memorial tattoo, inked, Crimson Knight Tattoo, Jose Cruz, miscarriage, loss tattoo

I wanted it all done in black silhouettes because sometimes our family feels like a shadow of its former self. We are not broken, but we are not whole without our baby bird. We remember. I remember every single day.

The baby bird is flying up towards a small heart within a heart. This is in reference to a line from my favorite E.E. Cummings poem I carry your heart with me; I carry it in my heart. It’s on my left arm so that they are always close to my heart.

tattoo, memorial tattoo, inked, Crimson Knight Tattoo, Jose Cruz, miscarriage, loss tattoo

[i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart]


i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Maybe you think this makes me sad. It doesn’t. In fact, it makes me immensely happy. I think it’s because for the first time ever, I can look down and see my entire family; all three of my children; my three little birds.

Maybe this makes me sound crazy? I honestly, don’t even care because it makes me feel whole again.

Through this tattoo, the baby who never lived outside of me lives on forever on my wrist surrounded by the family who loves and misses him. He was here. He is here, in my heart, forever and for always. I told my story without saying a word and maybe no one understands it but me, but that’s more than enough. The baby I lost was not a secret. I want the world to know he was here.

More importantly, I finally have something tangible, proof that I am the mother of three and not just two; even if it is only a tattoo of a portrait of silhouette birds.

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Kim 2017/11/24 - 10:50 am

Such a touching, lovely tribute to your angel baby. I love tattoos and want to get another one on my forearm.

Lyndy 2017/11/24 - 11:06 am

What a beautiful story. Your pain, your healing process, and the immeasurable love you have in your heart… it all brought tears to my eyes.
Love & light to you and your family.

Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh 2017/11/24 - 12:19 pm

What a touching story. I’ve never experienced a miscarriage myself, but my best friend did, three times. She has never forgotten the birthdays of what would have been. Nor has she forgotten the days that her babies left her. This is a beautiful sentiment for your baby, and I’m going to share this with that best friend. This is something that she would totally do, and see it as you have.

Gisele 2017/11/24 - 12:56 pm

Oh Deborah, I’m so very sorry!! I’m glad you found solace in your permanent memorial to your baby. I wasn’t lucky enough to have children so I feel some of your emptiness. My God bless you!

Sarah Bailey 2017/11/24 - 12:59 pm

That is such a beautiful tribute to your lost little one. Meaningful tattoos are my favourite.

Terri Beavers 2017/11/24 - 2:28 pm

Oh wow, my heart aches for you. Both of my daughters lost their babies in their last pregnancies so I know how heartbreaking it is first hand. I love that chose a tattoo to show your emotions. My youngest daughter got one as well.

Kim Delatorre 2017/11/24 - 4:49 pm

I totally get this. I have three angel babies, each of my live children are rainbow babies. I wish I could hug you so tight. Your tattoo is beautiful sweet mama <3

Jen Temcio 2017/11/24 - 7:15 pm

I love tattoos overall but especially because many of them represent things that are meaningful. This one that you did is beautiful in meaning and how it looks. (HUGS)

Liz Mays 2017/11/24 - 7:47 pm

I think this was a really sweet tribute and reminder. The tattoo artist did a really nice job.

Mimi Green 2017/11/24 - 7:51 pm

I think this is an incredible way to honor your baby. It sounds like your tone changed a bit as you talked about your tattoo. It has breathed new life into you. Kudos to you for being vulnerable and sharing your truth.

Sara Welch 2017/11/24 - 9:24 pm

You definitely don’t sound crazy. You sound like someone who is mourning a big part of themselves.

Kita Bryant 2017/11/24 - 9:31 pm

Bless your heart, it sounds like you’ve been hurting. That’s not crazy, that’s normal and that’s grief! It’s good to let it run its course.

Emily 2017/11/24 - 10:52 pm

This is so special, thank you for sharing your story! I find such strength hearing other peoples struggling and how they are able to grow from them and find a way to keep moving forward. Your tattoos are beautiful!

Amy D 2017/11/25 - 1:15 pm

Beautiful tribute, it turned out amazing! I did something similar when I got my very first tattoo.

Jennifer G 2017/11/25 - 5:57 pm

This is an amazing way to honor your baby. Thank you so much for sharing your truth.

Jeanine 2017/11/25 - 7:34 pm

This is amazing and something I would do as well. Very beautiful and a way honor a lost one. Especially a child.

Claudia Krusch 2017/11/26 - 1:41 pm

This is a beautiful tattoo. I love the solid black. Your Brother did an amazing job. The hearts are a great touch.

Nichole Arnold 2017/11/26 - 9:55 pm

I resonate with your story very much. All my tattoos means something but the ones that mean the most are the ones that remember the baby we lost this year as well as my Mom. My tattoos make me feel like ME and certainly while not whole….fulfilled.

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Meleah 2018/08/22 - 7:38 am

I am headed to get a tattoo today very similar to this one. My husband kind of joked about being a bird forever on my body. It hurts to know that even he doesn’t understand the pain of losing part of your heart to miscarriage. I’m doing this for me and no one else. A way to remember my family as it should have been in a perfect world. And yes, for healing. Losing a child isn’t something you get over. It becomes part of who you are. It’s something you learn to live through but never fully arrive to the other side. I cling to the hope that I’ll see my baby again in heaven. Until then, this tattoo will be and tangible reminder that God made me a mother of 4, not just the three you can see in earth.

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Robert William Schacht 2021/12/31 - 9:17 am

We too have had the heart breaking pain of a miscarriage. We have looked at this tattoo time and time and time again. Even as a male, father of the child, a miscarriage hurts. It has been over a year and we found out on April Fools Day of all days to find out. The pain still hurts to this day.


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