Climate Change Grief, Honoring the Pain and Moving On

Climate crisis anxiety and related PTSD are very real and growing mental health issues affecting people of all ages, especially young people. Between unexpected climate-induced disasters, the media and scientific reports focusing on bleak situations of impending environmental catastrophes, people are experiencing increased feelings of distress, anguish and helplessness. It is natural to want to put our heads in the sand to avoid the stress, but a healthier way to live is to reduce the amount of time spent focused on the negative and address what we are feeling so we can move beyond the paralysis of fear.

Being fearful and anxious are natural reactions to the overwhelming issues we are faced with, grieving, pain and emotional anguish are a part of the process we must go through. But, like anything difficult we are faced with we have to find ways to deal with what we’re feeling so we can move into a place of purpose and create a practical, positive vision for the future, empowering ourselves to take effective action.

Part of that action is moving away from the mindset that the government or other agencies are going to correct the environmental wrongs, if we are honest with ourselves and take responsibility, climate change developed with human expansion and the industrial age so we are all accountable; the solutions are up to all of us.

Eco-psychologist Joanna Macy teaches useful frameworks for facing up to disturbing realities and finding capacity for action. First there is the gratitude stage, which focuses our attention on those aspects of life and the world that nourish us. Then there is a stage that honors the pain that we are experiencing. The third and fourth stages relate to exploring new possibilities and finding practical actions to take. (from

Ways to contribute that I’ve found useful:

  • Sign environmental and wildlife petitions
  • We don’t run the A/C, the house does get warm, but its livable and ceiling fans keep us comfortable
  • Create a garden of native and edible plants
  • Use bird feeders to supplement what food isn’t there
  • Unplug appliances and electronics wherever and whenever possible
  • Use cloth grocery bags
  • Reuse whatever I can, reduce, then recycle
  • Significant reduction of food-waste and trash
  • Use nature friendly products
  • Monitor water and electricity usage
  • Combine trips to town
  • Use photography as a medium to convey conservation information
  • Grow native plants in my garden

My well-being and happiness practices:

How we feel and think makes a tremendous impact on our ability to be clear, deliberate, wise and sensible. I focus on a variety of ways to take care of myself so I am able to practice what I preach.

  • I pay attention to how I feel
  • Spiritual practices that allow me to attain internal peace
  • Stay in the moment
  • Practice deep breathing and meditation
  • Maintain a clutter free, beautiful environment
  • Get enough sleep
  • Be in the moment
  • Go out in nature for a walk
  • Listen to peaceful and relaxing music
  • Share any feelings of distress
  • Practice gratitude
  • Read about achievements and successes in conservation and sustainability
  • Instead of worrying, I search for solutions that I can apply

This man-made wetlands is just minutes from my home and one way I take solace that there are positive signs of progress. This is reclaimed water from my neighborhood, it supports a large variety of wildlife and native plants. Even though it seems minuscule, this is a part of my “solutions based program” because I feel uplifted by the efforts that the Game and Fish Dept. put into it to make this small area a part of the solution. Because of this area, my neighborhood does what we can to take steps to help keep the area as trash free as possible, do volunteer projects to help clean up public land, use chemical free cleaners and do whatever we can to honor and protect wildlife and nature areas.

 Climate change is the single biggest thing that humans have ever done on this planet. The one thing that needs to be bigger is our movement to stop it. – Bill McKibben

Moving on is beneficial not only for you, but for the planet. Healing takes time and is a step to be mindfully and heartfully whole again. Connecting your mind with your heart is a way to help yourself feel like what you’re doing matters.

How you can relieve the stress and feelings of helplessness:

  • Daily self care practices
  • Have good eating habits
  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Maintain healthy sleep
  • Take a walk in nature
  • Talk with someone who shares your ideals about how you feel
  • Remember one person can make a significant difference
  • Practice gratitude and appreciation
  • Reduce the amount of time spent on negative media
  • Seek help if you’re unable to resolve any internal issues

Create your own personal conservation program:

  • Promote change – sign petitions effecting the environment and sustainability
  • Reduce your use of fossil fuel
  • Be efficient – maintain your vehicle
  • Purchase Energy Star appliances
  • Weatherproof your home
  • Grow your own food
  • Use native plants and edibles throughout your garden
  • Reduce, reuse and then recycle
  • Offset your fuel consumption by donating to Green Projects – here is the link to help you find a project you’d like to fund:
  • Use public transportation when possible, walk or ride a bike
  • Unplug electronics and appliances when not in use
  • Learn about what your local businesses are doing to improve their environmental practices
  • Speak with your local authorities about what they’re doing and find ways to participate

While people may believe that doing these things is small and insignificant, imagine the effect if millions of people practiced these steps every. So do your part, proudly, knowing that you’re contributing to the better good of our planet.

We have to believe that even the small actions we take are making a difference and helping the environment. Develop strong social connections with family, friends and your neighbors, that will propel you to want to promote positive solutions and encourage everyone around you to be mindful of the way they live.

In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket. David Suzuki