How to Start a Climate Grief Group

“There must be those among whom we can sit and weep and still be counted as warriors.”

–Adrienne Rich

What is the purpose of the group?

Climate Grief Groups are for those living with an awareness of loss due to climate change and the collapse of our environmental and social systems to create a safe space to share and witness our complex feelings—feelings like grief, despair, fear, and guilt—which are increasingly common in these times, but which are often unwelcome in mainstream activist spaces.

Who comes to a climate grief group?

People often feel heartache, anxious, overwhelmed, or paralyzed by the climate crisis. They may sometimes feel burnt out or worn thin. They may feel pressure to stay positive or to stay active. They may feel guilt about not having done enough. These people may need a space to process their feelings without judgment or a rush to answers or action.

This is not a group for those who want to tell others what they need to think or do. This is not a group for those who want someone else to tell them what to think or do.

Starting a Group

If you are interested in starting a group, below are some suggestions for how to organize the group.

1. Vetting Participants

We suggest vetting those who are interested in attending. Here are some suggested questions:

  1. What interests you about the group?
  2. What experience, if any, do you have with environmental activism. (None is required.)
  3. Do you understand that the purpose of this group is to create a safe space for people to share complex feelings about the climate crisis and environmental and social collapse and not a space to suggest (or argue about) solutions?

2. The Format of the Group

1. Purpose
Explain the purpose of the group.

2. Format
Outline the format of the group.

3. Agreements
Review the group agreements. (See below.)

4. Check-in
Share how we’ve been doing since the last group.

5. Food for Thought
Share a reading or video to prompt discussion.

6. Discussion
Take turns sharing feelings in response to discussion prompt.

7. “Homework”
Recommend a reading or practice before the next group.

8. Critique
Share suggestions for improving the group.

9. Gratitude
End with an expression of gratitude.

3. Group Agreements

We suggest you draw up some guidelines for the conduct of the group. Everyone in the group should agree to these guidelines before participating. Here are some suggestions:

1. Take turns talking.
No interrupting or talking over others. Raise hands before speaking. Take deliberate pauses between each person’s turn to breathe and center ourselves. 

2. When responding to others …
speak from a place that is calm, curious, and compassionate.

3. Respect the moderator’s efforts to maintain order.
Wait your turn or raise your hand to be called on. Stop speaking if the moderator asks you to pause.

4. If you experience a strong offense …
say “ouch!” and we will pause to address it together.

5. Appreciate the difference between intent and impact.
Know that an innocent intent does not excuse a harmful impact. Do not assume that a harmful impact means an intent to harm.

6. Speak from your personal experience.
Use “I” statements. Don’t prescribe behavior for others. Be witness for each other. Don’t try to “fix” anyone.

7. No solutions talk.
The group is a solutions-free zone, a place where we can talk about our feelings without a rush to action. This can be hard for many activists.

8. Step Up-Step Back.
If you tend to speak easily or often, step back. If you tend to remain quiet, step up.

9. Maintain privacy.
The identity of the participants and the substance of the conversation is confidential.

10. Respect.
No sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, or body-shaming language.

National Suicide Hotline

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-8255.

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