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Rest In Peace (R.I.P.) Memorial Tattoos: Design Ideas, Symbols, and Meanings

Rest In Peace (R.I.P.) Memorial Tattoos: Everything You Want to Know

Rest In Peace (R.I.P.) Memorial Tattoos: Everything You Want to Know

Rest In Peace Tattoo Designs and Symbols

Rest in peace tattoos are a very popular and significant tattoo choice and a great way to remember the loved ones we have lost. No matter who you are, we all have lost someone. Death is certain: all we can do is promise never to forget. Memorializing a person (or pet!) in a tattoo is a way to keep that promise. Whether you get it to remember the loss of a distant ancestor, a beloved grandmother, or a child, it is a way to keep them close. There are many great benefits to having a RIP or memorial tattoo. It might even be the most meaningful tattoo that you wear.

What Does a R.I.P Tattoo Mean?

Rest in peace tattoos can have many positive messages and meanings. They are a great. . .

  • memorial for our lost loved ones.
  • way to honor the life that once was.
  • way to keep their memory alive and fresh.
  • reminder to live life to the fullest.

It is no secret: we only get one chance to make life count. A memorial tattoo can be a constant reminder to give all you can in life before it is too late.

Should You Get a Memorial Tattoo?

It is never easy losing someone that you love, no matter what your relationship was like. One of the hardest things one may ever have to do is bury a child. God forbid this happens to any of you, but sadly, it will. I know someone who lost her son at birth. She honored him with a small memorial tattoo of a baby being held by hands. For her, it was an extra difficult choice because although it serves as a memorial, it is also a reminder of what happened.

It can be a tough call. On one hand, you want to honor them, but on the other, you'd like to avoid the pain of remembering. This is something you will have to consider before you get your R.I.P. tattoo.

Of course, I am not just talking about the loss of children—it might be a mother, brother, sister, or uncle. Rest in peace tattoos give you the opportunity to honor a person in a way that could last until you're gone, too.

Design Options

Rest in peace memorial tattoos can be designed in a variety of ways.

Dates: Someone may portray a person's date of birth, date of death, or both. It might be the day you met someone or the last time you saw them on this earth. It might be an anniversary or a day you never want to forget. It can be either spelled out, or you can use only numbers.

Names or Initials: Names (first, last, middle, all, or initials) can also be inked at the bottom, on a ribbon or banner, or incorporated into your design somehow.

Symbols: Someone may choose a heart and have "mother" or "mom" inked inside (hearts are commonly incorporated into memorial tattoos, for obvious reasons). Or it might be an hourglass, a clockface, or an urn—any shape that holds significance for you.

Wings: Many choose to add wings to their R.I.P. tattoo. They may choose to add names and dates between the wings. I've seen many that have a pair of wings with a cross in the middle.

Bones, Skulls, Skeletons: Although it may seem "dark" to add images of death, many people choose to go this route and face it head-on. Skulls are a popular memorial tattoo symbol.

List of Loved Ones Lost: One cool idea that I saw was a man that had a grave marker tattooed on his arm. On the headstone, there was a list of names. When I met him, he had three names and dates on his list. He said it was the names of close friends and family. He said he would honor everyone close to him by adding their names to his tattoo.

With a Religious Symbol: Many choose to use crosses in their memorial tattoos. These will usually have "rest in peace" or RIP written across the horizontal bar. Some choose to get a first name, last name, or an entire name tattooed on the cross; some put a halo on the top of the cross. Any symbol that has spiritual meaning to you will enhance the personal significance of your memorial tattoo.

Personal Symbols: The design of a memorial tattoo will differ depending on who has passed away. For example, if a soldier died, someone might choose to add their country's flag to their R.I.P. tattoo. What did that person enjoy doing in life? Maybe your father loved playing music, so you may want to add a guitar or a piano to the design. If he was a big fan, you might add a Chicago Bears jersey.

Symbols for Memorial Tattoos

Any symbols can be incorporated into your memorial tattoo, but here is a list of the symbols that are most commonly associated with this type of tattoo.

Heart (Symbolic or Anatomical)

Hourglass or Clock

Wreath or Boquet

Grave Marker or Coffin

Flying Birds or Butterflies

Crown or Halo

Ribbon or Banner

Wings or Feathers

Lotus or Rose


Angels or Cherubs


Skulls, Skeletons, Bones

Sun or Shining Light

Grim Reaper or Death


Praying Hands


Prayer Beads

Olive Branch

Portrait Memorial Tattoos

Some R.I.P. designs include the face of the departed. In my opinion, this is the best way to remember someone. Make sure it is a great photo. I'd want to remember that person when they were the happiest. That way, when I look at their smiling face, I can smile back.

Make sure to go to a tattoo artist that specializes in portraits. Yes, it may cost a little more, but if it is done well, you won't regret it.

Read Portrait Tattoo Pictures & Designs for more information about how to do a memorial tattoo right.

Rose resting in a coffin (by @francesco_cassiani_artist)

Winged baseball to remember a true fan (by @tocker.311)

Digging your own grave (by @klary_cary)

Baby feet with wings (matching tattoos for bereaved parents by chrispincustattoo)

"Dad" memorial tattoo with fishhook (by @jonmanostattoo)

Traditional headstone and skull R.I.P. (by @jason_anderson_tattoo)

R.I.P. hand tattoo (by @str8blasted951)

Death is a sensitive subject for us all. If you are reading this, you are probably mourning a loved one. You are probably experiencing a lot of emotion. If you're not sure about getting a memorial tattoo, take your time. Many of us need a span of time to heal. R.I.P. tattoos are something you either want or don't. If you have found this article and you are suffering, I hope you find your way.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Nancy on October 15, 2015:

I am looking for a tatto in memory of my beautiful,who I have never had a chance to see her ..very painful for not knowing your own your own mom,how she's look like. I want something Meanful ,even thought I have seen her but still I want to sher that she's mean the world to me no matter what. So I need help with ideas of the tattoo ,that I should get.

Thank you to whoever taking time to read


Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on June 03, 2012:

*Max, great to see you again. It is a tough reminder for sure. It is very important to remember that. Time heals all pain though. It may be a tattoo that you want to consider once you are healed to a certain point.

*Alastar, they are. The self portraits are awesome. But once again, it is a tattoo that one would want to consider and weight out before getting inked.

*Angel, thanks for taking the time to come by and comment. I appreciate it very much. You are always welcome to come back:)

Angel on June 03, 2012:

I lov all the r.i.p tats so cool

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on May 29, 2012:

These are really personal- some of them with great artistry. Not something i'd want tatted on permanently but understand why some would. Unique one Ricky.

BeyondMax from Sydney, Australia on May 29, 2012:

This is really awesome, especially the portraits, just takes my breath away. Though, I agree with Gypsy Rose Lee - it is sort of a tough, painful reminder especially if it symbolizes the memory of a close to heart person.

Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on May 28, 2012:

*AE, thanks for stopping by. Yes, these are some great designs. The tattoo artist is extremely talented and creative.

*Tammy, always nice to hear from you. I will put that on my list. Viking tattoos are popular in certain areas up north, so that I will do. Many thanks.

*bMalin, always a please sweetie. They truly are. It really is a great way to honor those we have lost. A great way to honor them for the rest of our lives.

*Hot Rod, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate your feedback. Best wishes.

*Gypsy, you make a good point. Although it is a lifelong honor, it can also be a grim reminder. Something everyone should think about before getting one. Good advice.

*dmop, thanks for dropping by. Me as well. The art in these tattoos are amazing. Glad to meet someone who appreciates that art. Thanks for your kind words and votes:)

dmop from Cambridge City, IN on May 26, 2012:

I really appreciate body art, especially when it has a purpose, and stands for something meaningful. I don't have any tattoos but I think they are cool. Great job on this I gave it all but funny votes.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on May 25, 2012:

Fantastic and amazing. But kind of really sad. I wouldn't want to have such a reminder on me.

R. Fritz from Houston, TX. on May 25, 2012:

These were all very nice, lots of good color and I'm sure very meaningful to the ones who have them.

b. Malin on May 25, 2012:

Hi Lyric, It's Amazing how many ways there are to express our Feelings. Those Memorial Tattoos, really say it all. The portraits are Wonderful, and yet so Poignant. I guess someone can Celebrate from Birth until Death, those that they Love. Thanks for Sharing.

Tammy from North Carolina on May 25, 2012:

Gorgeous! I am glad to see another tattoo hub. These are very touching. I know so many people who get these. Perhaps you can do a hub on Norse and Viking tattoos. My son loves those. He has rune tattoos and is looking for a battle scene for his back. These are the best!

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on May 25, 2012:

The face looks like a photograph. The tattoo artist is extremely talented. All are beautiful...