ColumnsHealth & WellnessThe Seeker

Trying Lip Tattooing and Yoga To Help Navigate the Sea of Grief

Katie Grant looks over her shoulder and smiles
Katie Grant, The Seeker. (Photo by Moving Mountains Studios)

I held my mother’s hand as she took her last few breaths. She was heavily sedated in the emergency room as pneumonia and pulmonary fibrosis pulled her away.

It was a beautiful spring day, which only added to the feeling of shock and confusion. My pink cotton sundress was inconsistent with the emotions that shrouded the hospital room as I studied her body for the last time — the hands that once held me, the belly that grew me, the pallid lips that used to kiss my head. I am learning that grief summarizes the heartache felt after a loved one passes; dynamic and undulative.

Determined to allow the storm of emotions to flow through me but not consume me, I was ready to be around people again a week later. I headed to the annual ONE Fest, hosted by Dancing Lotus Yoga at Lenny Boy Brewing Co. for some yoga, arts and much-needed healing.

This event drew my attention because ONE Fest proudly hosts diverse classes and workshops. This year’s lineup was accessible, fun and represented various healing practices — starting the weekend with an intense yoga flow and chiropractic adjustment outdoors? Yes, please!

Another form of self-care I ventured into this spring is a form of semi-permanent makeup: lip tattooing.

What is the lip tattoo process, you ask?

Also known as “lip blush” or “semi-permanent makeup for lips,” lip tattooing is a cosmetic procedure that involves inserting pigment into the skin using a machine and a fine needle. Through several rounds of pigmentation and two initial appointments, the artist works to “build up” the pigment on your lips. It’s a process of layering to get the desired saturation.

Lip tattooing can add definition and fullness to the lips, correct uneven lip shape or asymmetry and enhance the natural lip color. It can also help to create the appearance of a fuller pout by defining the lip border. The procedure is customizable, allowing customers to choose their desired shade and intensity of color.

As for me, I was tired of looking in the mirror and seeing a pair of asymmetrical lips, so I decided to do something about it finally. I booked my first tattoo session with a local female-owned and operated tattoo studio.

After several rounds of rescheduling due to personal issues on the artist’s end, I finally laid down in her chair. Am I allowed to feel annoyed when it comes to elective procedures?

The artist first consulted me, asking about my goals (symmetry) and finally choosing a color. Pigments used are usually chosen to match or enhance the natural lip color. She recommended choosing a shade I gravitate to most of the time, so we arrived at a coral pink shade. She then outlined my lips to establish the desired shape. They looked so full; I did not realize they held so much potential!

After numbing me for 30 minutes, the artist used a specialized tattoo machine to deposit the pigments into the lip tissue. She started on the top lip, moved to the bottom lip, and alternated between the two for about three hours. I was continuously and adequately numbed throughout the process.

It’s important to note that lip tattooing is a semi-permanent procedure, as the pigments gradually fade over time — and fade they did.

I went for a touch-up a few weeks later, which was included in the price, thankfully. The artist admitted the pigment was light, so we did another three-hour tattoo session.

She was transparent when disclosing how factors such as individual metabolism, sun exposure, and lifestyle can affect the tattoo’s longevity.

Touch-up sessions may be needed every few years to maintain the desired color and shape, but I will save my money after sitting through two sessions and seeing minimal results.

Either way, I have a makeup drawer full of lipsticks, lip stains, lip glosses, and tinted lip balms begging not to be forgotten. By not re-booking, I will be $500 richer simply using what I already have.

While navigating the unpredictable sea of grief this spring, I’ve explored the tattoo route (which allows the body to release endorphins but has not proved worth the price) as well as yoga, with travel up next on the list. I’ve booked a yoga retreat in Mexico, combining my bereavement days and a long holiday weekend for a summer break in the southern hemisphere.

While grief is universal, I am learning that everyone experiences it differently; sometimes the stages overlap. From what I’ve read, the standard five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Grief can also feel like regret, shame, anxiety and include physical sensations. For me, the anxiety manifests physically in the form of excruciating headaches.

Thus far, I have found that yoga is providing the solace I need, in addition to abstaining from alcohol for mental health reasons. And therapy, lots of therapy.

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