Getting a semicolon tattoo with my son was a way to honor the grief and challenges we'd endured.
We decided to add my parents' ashes to the ink so they'd always be with us.
This tattoo marked a step toward new beginnings and stories.
But things went downhill when both of my parents died in the same year. Losing my parents was a significant hit to my mental health when I was already struggling with depression. My son's mental health was also precarious; not only did he lose his grandparents, but, to a certain extent, he lost his mom.
I was severely withdrawn. It took everything I had to excel at work so I could survive financially. When I got home from my corporate job, I had nothing left and spent most of my time in bed. My son was desperate for attention and did everything he could to get it. He became a star athlete, but he also skipped school and experimented with drugs.
In November 2013, my son was nearing his last semester of high school, and I was emerging from the depressive haze that had kept me primarily bedbound for seven years. To honor everything we'd been through, my son and I got a tattoo together.
Semicolon tattoos spoke to my son and me
My son and I both attempted suicide. Thankfully, we both survived and had the opportunity to continue our story.
At the time, the so-called semicolon movement was taking off on the internet — basically, people who had experience with mental illness, addiction, or suicide were getting tattoos of semicolons. My son and I decided to get the tattoos on our wrists to represent everything we'd been through together.
I brought a small vial with some of my parents' ashes to the tattoo shop and asked the tattoo artist to add the ashes to the ink. I thought this would be a great way to honor my parents and ensure they'd be with us not only in spirit but physically.
The artist was creeped out by the idea, but the shop manager said the ashes were just carbon and ordered him to proceed. The artist got on board quickly.
My son was surprised I could get a tattoo without whining about the pain. I reminded him I gave birth after a long labor and an emergency C-section — this tiny tattoo was no match for the physical and emotional pain I'd experienced.
I actually found the process quite healing, especially considering the tattoo's symbolism and knowing my parents were always going to be with us.
We kept quiet about the tattoo's meaning
My son and I shared a private, unique, and tragic bond; our tattoos were a symbol of that bond.
The tattoos were a promise we made to each other to keep living and keep writing the story of our lives. They were also an acknowledgment of our relationship and our gratitude for the times we continued to live for each other when we didn't want to.
But we weren't quite sure our friends and family were ready for the truth. When asked about our tattoos' meaning, we either said, "It's private," or "We love grammar."
Once we felt more stable, we got vocal about our struggle and the meaning behind our tattoos
I was extremely proud when my son posted about our story on Facebook in 2015, sharing his truth and explaining the tattoos.
"I want to say the meaning of the tattoo my mama and I share," he wrote. "The author used a semicolon because he could have ended the sentence, but chose not to. The author meaning you, and the sentence meaning your life."
He added, "You never know what a person is going through until you are in their shoes, so always be mindful of the words you choose."
He closed his post with encouragement for those who've been where we've been. He gave me the courage to be open about my experiences, too.
These days, my son and I are still writing new stories — me quite literally as an author and him as a professional and soon-to-be husband.
Read the original article on Insider