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
- The Climate Psychology Alliance offers a collection of readings, podcasts, videos and groups to connect with specifically for youth.
- Join a Good Grief Group through the Good Grief Network. This program offers 10-steps to develop personal resilience and empowerment in a chaotic climate.
- Use this guide from Climate and Mind to create your own grief group.
- Eco-Anxious Stories: Changing the Narrative for Climate Confidence is a 2-part workshop that uses stories to help grow people's climate confidence in order to work on climate solutions.
- The "You Aren't Alone in Grieving the Climate Crisis" Podcast by Science Friday reminds people they are not alone in their grief.