Cut the Awkwardness, it’s my Tattoo

On April 25, 2011 my mum came into my room, woke me up, and told me that my eight year old cousin died. Four years later, I asked my mum to ask my uncle a question and then three months later, my mum drove me to a place called 252 Tattoo and sat in the car as a guy called Steve spent thirty minutes putting the letters DRDM on my wrist. That day was when the my heart began to feel whole again.

I decided to get my tattoo on my wrist because I wanted it somewhere that I could easily look at when I needed a little extra strength. I knew that people would be able to see it and that there would be questions.  But by the time I got the tattoo, I was ready to open up to everyone without crying and that was something that took years. It wasn't just me, it took my mom about a year to be able to say ''Daniel's funeral". It took time for my family to fully come to terms with what happened that day in April. However by the time I got the tattoo, I was ready to explain that my younger cousin was very sick but lived longer than the doctor’s thought he would.

What I didn't realize was that even though I was able to talk about it without feeling like my heart was breaking all over again, I was not protected from the awkward reactions from other people. Every time people see my tattoo for the first time, they comment and say that they like it. Then they ask what made me get it or what is the meaning behind it. I normally start with ‘It is my cousin Daniel’s initials’ and then I calmly add that Daniel passed away when I was in high school and I wanted to be able to keep him close to me. That second part of the explanation is when things get awkward. Here are some of the terrible and awkward reactions I have gotten.

  1. *Giant Hug* “You deserve so much more than that”

  2. “Did you know your cousin before he died?”

  3. “Oh my gosh I am so sorry. I should not have asked. Are you okay? Do you need to talk?”

  4. “Was it an accident or was he sick?...WAIT should we be talking about this? Are you emotionally okay? Is there anything I can do?”

  5. “Okay let’s change the subject I don’t want to make you cry”

So I know that people mean well...but .... really?  Some of these reactions are a little ridiculous and I always want to react but I have to be the bigger person. I mean come on-I deserve more? How about Daniel deserved a longer life? Did I know Daniel before he died? Why would I get a tattoo of someone I didn't know? Not only that, but why would I get a tattoo for people to see if I was not ready to talk about it? Do people think that I would get a tattoo that would cause me pain to talk about? If so, then we have a bigger problem.

I know that death is an uncomfortable topic and people do mean well. But at the same time, use your head people! Why would I get a tattoo on my wrist if I did not want to talk about it? Why would I calmly explain the story behind it, if I was not at peace with the situation? This may be selfish of me, but I think I deserve better reactions. I think people should learn how to properly react to topics like this or at least pretend that they can handle it. I mean, Daniel’s little brother was once in public and was asked about his siblings. His response was “'Yes Matthew is at home with dad and Daniel is in the graveyard cos he's dead”. I think that if my younger cousin is comfortable with topics like death, then others can be too.

I will never regret getting this tattoo. I am always willing to talk about it, because Daniel is my guardian angel. With that being said, I am over the awkward reactions. It makes me feel like I have to comfort people for something that happened to me. I got this tattoo so I could fill the empty space in my heart, not so I could deal with people’s awkwardness.