Nearly fifty million people have tattoos in the United States, and that number is growing. In the past decade there has been a significant rise in memorial tattoos–those in which the tattoo serves to highlight the loss of a child, a spouse, a lover, a parent, a friend or pet. GriefINK: Tattoo as the language of Grief, is a collection of grief stories and powerful photographs of memorial tattoos which highlight the continued bond that people share with loved ones well after death.

The featured participants–fathers, mothers, granddaughters, grandmothers, peace officers, and military personnel–share their losses, decision-making process to receive a memorial tattoo, and the impact that the finished tattoo has had upon their lives.

By wearing an outer expression of their inner loss, these individuals show how memorial tattoos do not merely punctuate the death of someone, but rather, invite others into the living world of relationship. Using her education and experience as a therapist, grief specialist, and writer, Susan Salluce, MA, CT, offers the bereaved, the tattoo industry, and professionals in the helping fields a cutting-edge view of memorialized loss. Matt Molinari’s exceptional photographs will appeal to photographer enthusiasts who seek to capture not simply an image, but the emotion and story behind the picture.

This memorial tattoo has helped me wrap my brain around Asher’s death... It gave me such peace. With this tattoo Asher and I can go around life together.
— Alyssa (GriefINK)
alyssa copy.jpg
My dad hadn’t even passed away, yet I knew getting a memorial tattoo was something I wanted to do. I wanted something on me. He gave me this body, and I wanted a reminder of his life.
— Tracey (GriefINK)


“Grief therapist Susan Salluce’s brilliant new book GriefINK takes a profound look at body art as means of coping with grief. GriefINK opened my eyes to body art as a powerful means of carrying a loved one with us forever. The loving stories and exquisite imagery moved me deeply, and I was fascinated by the thoughtful ways in which people selected the unique image inked on their skin. In telling these elegant stories, GriefINK inspires compassion and broadens our understanding of the grieving process.“

Terri Giuliano Long (Author of the novels In Leah’s Wake
& Until I Come Home)

“Susan Salluce’s GriefINK: Tattoo as the Language of Grief is a fascinating journey into an alternate way that a subculture memorializes loved ones and visibly expresses their grief. Through personal stories and photo, we see yet another way we mourn.”

– Kenneth J. Doka, PhD Graduate School, The College of New Rochelle. Senior Consultant, The Hospice Foundation of America

“Susan Salluce’s GriefINK is a fascinating and deeply moving exploration of how we continue to love and remember those dearest to us. As someone who has never even contemplated a tattoo, I came to understand how carrying a loved one on our skin can be a wonderful compliment to the way we carry them in our hearts, encouraging others to ask about those who’ve passed, and in that way keep the memory of that person even more deeply alive.” – Juliette Fay Bestselling Author of The Shortest Way Home, Shelter Me, Deep Down True

“As a professional photographer, the images in GriefINK reveal how individuals can actually heal from their losses through memorial tattoos, and the incredible stories show how this process happens.”

- Dave “Nelly” Nelson NRB Photography

“In GriefINK, Susan Salluce has captured a moving, poignant understanding of the human urge to remember those we’ve lost in the most intimate way—with our bodies. What more beautiful testament to life than ink upon one’s own skin, forging a human altar to the memories of those we’ve loved who’ve left too soon. This book will speak to anyone who has loved and grieved.” 

- Jordan Rosenfeld (Author of Women in Red and A Writer’s guide to Persistence)

“Seeing someone out in the water with a memorial tattoo honoring surfers like Jay Moriarty, Pat Groen, and Skye Kassender makes those people present. It’s comforting. In GriefINK, Susan Salluce shares Anthony Ruffo’s story and tattoos that he got in memory of his dogs Roxy and Gretchen. For me, reading his story and seeing his tattoos brings back those days that Darryl “Flea” Virostko, Anthony Ruffo, and I all surfed together. Roxy and Gretchen were always with us; they were our friends, too. Just like the memorial benches and placards along Santa Cruz beaches that honor surfers who have died, memorial tattoos bring friends, family, and pets close to us, and that is what Susan demonstrates in GriefINK.” 

- Peter Mel (Big Wave World Tour Champion; Maverick Invitational Champion; Broadcaster for WSL, World Surf League)

“Susan Salluce’s gorgeous and monumentally moving book, GriefINK, about memorial tattoos and the people who have them, will change everything you ever thought about ink on skin, and grieving. Filled with profoundly moving and inspirational photographs and texts, this book is really about how we keep our dead alive and with us, with creativity and incredible grace. I felt changed by this book. You will, too.”

- Caroline Leavitt New York Times Bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You

“Susan Salluce’s GriefINK makes a striking and much needed contribution to the literature on grief. She and her contributors disrupt the notion that tattoos are taboo. Rather, written in the flesh, tattoos help us cope with trauma and loss, celebrate, and serve to make, remake, and reveal memories. Tattoo stories, as told by their bearers, demonstrate both grief and resilience. Those of us with memorial tattoos appreciate the role GriefINK will play in helping us speak about our grief and, more importantly, about those we love and who remain with us.” 

- Deborah Davidson, PhD Sociologist and tattoo bearer, York University, Toronto, Canada The Tattoo Project: Visual Culture and the Digital Archive