Tip #4 to galvanize climate action: climate grief is a door to love
Keeping climate grief at arm’s length may be one of the biggest barriers to climate action we know. Many sense, even if only subconsciously, that to fully engage emotionally in the climate crisis, would mean to open our hearts to deep pain, hopelessness, and grief for what we have lost, are losing and may lose in the future. It is enough to turn our heads away and distract ourselves with less painful thoughts.
Those who work in the climate space may know this kind of grief already. It doesn’t just visit once but can come in waves, triggered again and again by the latest climate report, extreme weather, or regressive environmental policies. A natural response is to push the feeling away, perhaps because we don’t know how to be with it, or because our work environment doesn’t allow it. When we don’t engage with it, not only do we risk burnout, but we also miss the opportunity to connect with the love that our grief is a part of.
“Climate grief differs from other forms of grief in that rather than one loss, we experience multiple losses, both past, current and anticipated. Where the pain of a more traditional form of loss may lessen over time, climate grief may keep returning, ever sharp and differently textured, with each new loss. If we can learn to grieve well – making space for it, and knowing that it will not destroy us – we can accept grief as a familiar friend, and that acceptance might allow us to experience a deeper connection to our world. If we can do that, then there is a gift in this time of sadness and anxiety; in surrendering to grief, we can connect to love.”
– Excerpt from chapter 21: ‘Loving, grieving, hoping’ of Climate Change Coaching – The Power of Connection to Create Climate Action
A coaching approach can help us to take a fresh perspective on a subject that we were previously afraid to engage with. Try the following ideas to help you think differently about climate grief if it is weighing you down:
- Remember that grief only exists where deep love is present. Sophie Tait reminds us in her practitioner story for this chapter that writer Jamie Anderson described grief as “all the love you want to give, but cannot…love is just grief with nowhere to go”.
- Write it down: Describe in 100 words your experience of climate grief. Then write another 100 words about the love that your grief is expressing.
- Look to nature for a fresh perspective on the cycle of birth, death, decay and rebirth. Look for stories that tell about the regeneration after damage, to help reconnect you to your love and amazement of the natural world.