My first bit of advice would be to wait until you have given yourself time to grieve and mourn your loved one before you make any decision about getting a tattoo. Making such a permanent decision when your emotions are especially high is not a good idea.
A memorial tattoo should reflect the personality and interests of the person you are memorializing. But it also has to be something that you yourself will be proud to wear on your skin.
A Unique Tattoo for a Unique Person
Typical memorial symbols like roses, crosses, and ribbons with the birth and death dates of the person can also be included in your design, but by themselves they are not very unique or imaginative.
Think about your loved one as an individual first. Did they have any serious interests or hobbies? What stood out about them as a person? Maybe they rode a motorcycle, collected beanie babies, were into music or had a penchant for cooking. If you can think of something that represents what made them unique, that’s a great place to start. Then start searching for pictures that depict those things.
Now think of how that person affected your life personally, and why they were special to you. If there was something in particular that bonded you together, is there a picture that comes to mind that could be incorporated in the tattoo? If you enjoyed playing pool together, shared a love for crocheting, or liked hanging out at karaoke bars together, these things all conjure up images that could be included in a tattoo design.
Memorializing a Child
There probably isn't anything more painful than losing a child, no matter what age. If the child was too young to have developed interests or a personality, there may not be any particular images that come to mind. A portrait of the child may be appropriate, as long as it doesn't cause feelings of sorrow when you see the tattoo. Images of angels, halos and angel wings also tend to be popular for child tattoos.
When You Didn't Personally Know Them
If you’re getting a memorial tattoo for someone you didn’t really know, like a fallen soldier or something to symbolize the many lives lost in a tragedy, it presents a special challenge. Think about what best depicts that person or the tragedy in a positive light, and a way that would be considered honorable to others who would have been affected by the same situation.
Whatever design you come up with, the final decision is yours since you are the one that has to live with it. But if you've taken the time to honor the person aptly, the tattoo should bring fond memories and honor them until you leave this world yourself.