Serene and beautiful photos of the world's first eco-friendly underwater burial ground.

Losing a loved one is hard for a number of reasons.

While the grieving process itself takes a toll, you might also find yourself needing to make several difficult decisions. There are legal issues, people to notify, decisions about the person's property or belongings, and a million choices about funeral arrangements.

If the death is unexpected or isn't thoroughly planned for, those decisions get even harder.


One of those decisions is what to do with your loved one's remains, and believe it or not, there are a lot of options.

Sure, you can go the traditional burial route, and there's always cremation, where you can either keep the ashes around or do something cool like toss them into your grandpa's favorite fishing spot (cue single manly tear).

This is for you, grandpa. You urn'd it. (Sorry just trying to lighten the mood.) Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images.

There are also an increasing number of creative options for paying tribute to your loved ones. You can turn your loved one into a tree or a diamond or even a toaster, and if they were a music lover, you can even have their ashes pressed into a vinyl record. Really.

Another option sits off the coast of Miami in Key Biscayne. It's called the Neptune Memorial Reef, and it's the first underwater graveyard.

It's also the largest human-made reef ever built. Naturally occurring coral reefs exist all over the world, but they can also be made artificially.

A reef is essentially just a complex group of shapes underwater. They're important because they can provide shelter for small fish, protection from storms, surface area for algae and coral to grow on, and they generally help promote diversity within an ecosystem.

To make an artificial reef, you can sink something like an old ship to the bottom of the ocean, where coral and algae can grow on it and create a safe home for dozens of species.

When it comes to burying a loved one at the Neptune Memorial Reef, you can have their ashes spread at the site or purchase a plaque with their name on it to become part of the reef itself.

A memorial plaque at the Neptune reef. Photo by Todd Murray/Flickr.

They also offer various cremation and memorial services.

The reef was carefully designed in order to promote the healthiest ecosystem possible — something anyone who loves the ocean and environment can appreciate.

"Every angle and texture of the Reef was engineered by a marine biologist to attract and support certain marine life to build an ecosystem," their website says, explaining that the vertical structures are home to "corals and coraling algae" while decorative holes were added to the design as a hiding place that "allows prey animals passage while blocking predators."

Appropriately, the Neptune reef was also made to resemble Atlantis — a fictional city that was lost underwater in Greek myths.

What better way to celebrate the life of a loved one than by preserving their memory in a way that helps protect and promote life?

Whether your loved one was an ocean-lover or just someone who loved this planet we all call home, an underwater grave site is a pretty beautiful — and special — resting place.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

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Purrington Cat Lounge, where "adoptable cats roam freely and await your visit" and patrons can pay a small entry fee for the chance to sip coffee alongside feline friends, boasted legendary adoption rates since its conception in January 2015.


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