What is Climate Grief?
“Climate grief” and “eco-anxiety” are two terms that are being used by some mental health professionals and by the media to describe the feelings that arise as a person becomes aware of loss, either present or future, due to climate change and the collapse of our environmental and social systems. These can include feelings of grief, despair, fear, guilt, dread, powerlessness, overwhelm, and burnout. Unfortunately, these feelings are often unwelcome in the spaces where we live our lives, including many activist spaces.
If you are feeling this way, know this …
- You are not alone.
- These kinds of feelings are perfectly normal and healthy. Our ability to feel heartbreak is a function of our ability to feel joy.
- Your feelings are a natural response to being alive and aware in a time of rapid environmental and social change.
- The intensity with which you may be feeling these feelings at the moment is not permanent. Just like the natural world, the human soul also has seasons.
- Action can help, but it can also be a way of avoiding your feelings.
- While not everyone will understand your feelings, it is important to find and connect with those who do.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Take care of yourself.
Don’t forget to breathe.
Drink lots of water.
Move your body.
Take time for yourself.
Pray or meditate.
Keep coming back to that which sustains you, whether you call it “God,” “Spirit,” “the Goddess,” “Gaia,” “the web of life,” “the spirits of the land,” or by no name at all.
Take the advice of climate activist Patrick Robbins: “Walk by yourself at night under the dark sky. Recognize that you only have one life, that you have more power than you realize, and that there is a grace and a joy that comes from using that power for something bigger than yourself.”
But also “recognize that the climate crisis is complicated—no one person is going to solve it by themselves.” Know that you don’t have to have all the answers, you don’t have to do everything, and you don’t have to be perfect.
Remember that our current cultural systems work to alienate us from each other and from wild nature. The most radical thing we can do under these systems is to build community. Any action which connects us to the wider human and more-than-human community is a form of resistance.