The Healing Place

A Prince Edward Island sanctuary challenges nature to offer hope, healing and renewal after heartbreaking personal loss.

What drives a small but dedicated group of people to build and nurture a natural sanctuary in the centre of PEI to promote healing after the loss of a child? Can they find renewal in the healing power of nature in Prince Edward Island’s International Children’s Memorial Place, in an area itself devastated by nature’s power to give and take after a dam breach in 2009 wreaked havoc and destroyed the once beautiful historic Scales Pond? What keeps these people going, from where do they draw their strength? The Healing Place is a story of peace, love and the incredible power nature has to heal – if we let it.

“There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature”. – Henry David Thoreau

The schoolhouse at the International Children's Memorial Place

The International Children’s Memorial Place is dedicated to rebuilding and celebrating life for people who grieve after the heartbreaking physical or emotional loss of a child.  This 12 acre site on the beautiful Scales Pond near Freetown PEI has become a place where, in the forgiving arms of nature, broken spirits from around the world gather in search of reflection and renewal.  The pond itself was the site of the deaths of two boys, aged 15 and 17, who drowned in 1947 while fishing.

 The ICMP was founded by PEI resident Bill MacLean, who lost his 21-year-old son to a snowmobiling accident. Since that time a hardworking group has joined Bill to build on his vision and create a place now home to a labyrinth of life and love; to an everliving forest where over three hundred trees are planted and now grow in memory of children who have passed; to a trail of reflection where poetic messages calm the spirit; and to a path of bricks laid to create a remembrance path. 

 Summerside resident Peggy Miles was only 22 when she lost her older sister Shirley to undiagnosed diabetes.   Many years ago her parents placed a brick at the International Children’s Memorial Place in honour of their daughter’s memory. Yet despite its proximity to her home, Peggy has never visited.  She’s heard about the sanctuary, but can she find the courage to visit, to bring up memories sure to hurt? Can this place, nurtured by Bill and his supporters, heal everyone’s hurts?

 After all, the site itself has known its own share of nature’s fury. In 2009 Scales Pond breached its dam, snapping trees like toothpicks and laying waste to everything in its path.  But as it has done since the beginning of time, nature has begun its own healing process – restoring itself perhaps not exactly as before, but with a renewed determination to live. 

 The ICMP is an idyllic site with its own heavenly qualities - not unlike the peaceful place many believe we go to when our journey is done.  Is that enough to help Peggy and the dedicated group of volunteers who believe in nature’s peace and indomitable will to rejuvenate itself?

 “The Healing Place” raises a number of universal questions about the restorative power of nature and “place”.  Can a place nurture healing? Can we trust nature to give us comfort, knowing its own unpredictable ability to wreak havoc and destruction?  Does the unrelenting continuity of nature help us to understand that we too can live beyond unspeakable loss, even if it is a different life than we had hoped for?

“Like any magnificent tree, we all have within us the capacity to shelter from the storm...but it takes work.  Accept that you are wounded and need, from time to time, an outstretched hand. Seek strength from those whose life journey has been a challenge, for they have much to teach. Build your strength daily in little ways, so that when called upon, your branches will be strong, your roots deep and you know how to bend.”