Climate Mental Health

Moving Through Grief

Why is it that some people are anxious and worry about climate change and others seem to deny or ignore it? People have different ways of handling stress, anxiety, and loss that they experience as they learn about or experience climate change impacts. Understanding the five stages of grief in the context of climate change can help to empathize with others and identify where in the grief process they may be. Note that these stages are not a step-wise process but five possible reactions:

  • Climate Denial is when people ignore consequences or evidence out of fear of the implications.
  • Climate Anger in those who oppose climate activists, policies, or solutions. In those who are convinced of urgency, it may be anger towards the people and systems that caused the climate crisis.
  • Climate Bargaining is when people downplay or avoid facing climate impacts by wishful thinking and token efforts.
  • Climate Depression involves acceptance of reality but feeling hopeless and not motivated to act. 
  • Climate Acceptance is when one has accepted reality and their feelings but has the opportunity to diminish the impacts on themselves and loved ones through collective action.  

Leslie Davenport, a leading climate psychologist, and the Good Grief Network offer the following strategies to move through climate grief and build resilience.

Admit there is a problem  

Allow feelings, don't fight, and be curious 

Be aware of physical feelings  

Use creativity to focus on "what we can do" not "what have we done"  

Be aware of how ideas or assumptions may be distorted    

Take a break when burnt out  

Heal from past trauma in order to reconnect with the natural world 

Look for beauty and meaning  

Join support groups