New Grande Prairie garden will offer a place to mourn child loss

·3 min read

The Blossoming Garden of Hope (formerly the Children’s Memorial Garden) broke ground last Wednesday (May 25) and is expected to be completed later this year.

The project has been six years in the making.

The garden will be next to a playground in Maskwôtêh Park, with the new regional hospital sitting just across Bear Creek.

“It's hard not to get emotional for this day,” said Elizabeth Naeth, Compassionate Friends of Grande Prairie president.

“It's been a long, long time, and I would say that our shoulders feel a little lighter, and the amount of community support is flooring.”

The garden's mission is to create a place for families and friends that have lost a child (from conception to adulthood) where they can reflect, honour and feel a sense of community.

“Grief is not a condition to be treated, it's a healing process, and this takes a long time, much longer than most people would expect, and it requires ongoing support, understanding and friendship,” said Naeth.

Lindsay and Brock Clement are parents of pregnancy loss and shared their story of their daughter Emma.

At 21 weeks of pregnancy, the Clements were rushed to a hospital in Edmonton.

“One decision we were faced with within less than 24 hours after our little girl was born was where did we want Emma to rest?” said Lindsay.

“One of the most difficult decisions we've had to make and one that didn't come easy.”

She explained hospitals have “hospital burials” that help people make a difficult decision; this is what the Clements decided to do. Now, Emma rests in an Edmonton cemetery.

“Thinking that she was so far away was so excruciating at times,” said Lindsay.

“I wanted the opportunity to visit her at any moment I could.

“I didn't want to miss visiting her on her birthday, I want to be able to take her flowers every day of the week, but instead, I felt moments of guilt.”

The Blossoming Garden of Hope will become a place for the Clements to take their three boys and honour Emma’s memory, said Lindsay.

“(This is) a place where we can send her a special prayer and a place where we can celebrate birthdays and special moments with family and friends.

“The garden truly holds so much purpose to provide comfort to all those affected by the loss of a child.”

Twenty five perennials and shrubs will be planted here, as well as 10 varieties of blooming trees.

Their blossoms come with meaning, said Naeth. They represent fragility and beauty of life.

“They are a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful and that it's also tragically short,” she said.

“The death of losing our child creates a ripple effect in our community,” said Karen Gilkyson, co-founder of Tiny Hands of Hope, who has been helping plan the garden.

She noted it affects everyone involved, from parents, friends, teachers and first responders.

“It's nice to have a beautiful area where there are children playing and a garden where people can go and take their children and remember,” said Leanne Beaupre, County of Grande Prairie reeve.

The county contributed $10,000 toward the construction of the park in February.

The City of Grande Prairie contributed $54,768 toward the garden, and in 2017 the land was transferred to the garden at a value of about $187,500, says the city.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News

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