Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
10 Ways To Process Climate Grief When It Shows Up
Published Mar 2nd, 2021 & updated on Dec 8th, 2021
When you think of grief, what usually comes to mind? For us, it’s alllllll of the pain and the emotions that come with experiencing a huge loss. And for those who have had to face losing a loved one in the past, this may seem like a very familiar feeling. We’re glad you’re here. It’s important to recognize that we all handle grief differently and move through the process at our own pace. But it’s also important to note that we can grieve many different things…especially the things that have an impact on our lives. Like the environment, for instance! It’s called climate grief and yes, it’s becoming a real concern.
What Is Climate Grief?
We experience ecological grief when we take notice of, or fear, the negative effects on our planet due to climate change. This can include loss of species, ecosystems and the anticipation of natural disasters. If you’ve ever felt pain at the extinction of a rare animal or the clearcutting of trees in a historical park, then you’ve definitely experienced climate grief before!
It’s becoming more common as our society starts to take notice of the crisis we’re facing. More people are becoming conscious of their environmental impact and are making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. But, with this awareness has come an overwhelming sense of eco-grief. And because it’s still very new to the conversation of mental health you might not know how to process it.
A report published by the American Psychological Association explains that “the ability to process information and make decisions without being disabled by extreme emotional responses is threatened by climate change.” Sooo yeah, the emotional trauma and distress so many of us are experiencing from the effects of climate change are very real and totally valid.
10 Ways To Process Climate Grief
Grieving a loss can be challenging, especially when it’s something as massive as the whole planet! You might feel like no one else understands your feelings, but we promise that you’re not alone. So many others have the same fears you do! They grieve when another landscape is lost, another species becomes extinct, or another natural disaster hits.
You might be wondering: How will I ever process climate grief, especially when it seems like there’s more to grieve everyday?! It’s hard, we know. But, here are some ways you can deal without it consuming your overall wellbeing:
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
Obviously, nobody LIKES to feel emotional pain. If we could, we’d probably turn off all negative emotions like a switch so that all of the hurt can never affect us again! Buuut that’s not reality, unfortunately.
Take the time to let yourself feel the clusterfuck of emotions you’re going through right now. You might be feeling sad, angry, scared, hopeless, or all of the above! And that’s okay. Remind yourself that your feelings are valid. Repressing these emotions will only weigh you down! Instead, tell yourself: I feel ___ because ___ and that’s okay. I’m allowed to feel how I feel. It’s a simple act but validating your emotions is the first step to navigating them — trust us!
2. Look At What You CAN Change
Watching natural disasters or large spills on the news might make you feel discouraged. Maybe even like your efforts are meaningless? Sure, you’re a recycling advocate and you bike to work instead of drive. But what’s the point when apparently one hundred energy companies are actually responsible for 71% of all industrial emissions?! You’re only one person…how can you make a real difference to combat climate change?
First of all, don’t beat yourself up or believe your actions aren’t ever enough. They absolutely are! The choices you make every day add up, no matter how small they might seem. Take notice of all the good you already do and look at areas where you can improve. It will help you regain that sense of control you might be missing right now.
3. Then Accept What You CAN’T Change
In a perfect world, we’d be able to save every endangered animal and ecosystem. Unfortunately, for every win we find, there are still gonna be some losses. We just can’t do it all! Even though your efforts do make a big difference, there’s still a lot that is ultimately out of your hands. It’s a realization that may be hard to accept, we know. But accepting some environmental loss comes with accepting what you cannot change. It can weigh heavy on your shoulders, but remember — you are still doing your part. And the fact that you care so much is a really POWERFUL thing!
4. Know That You’re Not Alone
Does it sometimes feel like you’re the only one who cares this much about the loss of the environment? You’re not alone, we promise! There are millions of people out there who also are incredibly passionate about our planet, even if they’re not in your immediate circle. If you don’t have anyone in your personal life who you can relate to, it’s not a bad idea to reach out to some like-minded people who feel the same way you do. Which brings us to the next point:
5. Get Involved With Like-Minded People
Climate grief can be a really personal thing to navigate, but teaming up with like-minded people can do wonders for your grieving process! Try volunteering in your community. Join an environmental club, or start your own. Set up an online group to talk about your feelings and ideas about climate change. Making new friends and connections who share your values can help you process all of the shitty emotions you’re dealing with and help you feel a little more hopeful about the future.
6. Use Your Support System
Finding a support system to vent your feelings to is super important! We don’t want you to bottle everything up inside (unless it’s a reusable bottle! HA) to the point where you feel like you might combust. It’s not so great for your mental, or overall, wellbeing. So lean on those like-minded people and find a safe space to share your feelings. Being there for other people and having them be there for you in return is a 10/10 great way to cope with climate grief. We’re alllll in this together!
7. Enjoy Spending Time In Nature
The internet can be a great place for connection. But when you’re exposed to one climate disaster after the next, and the loss of beautiful species and landscapes, it can actually make you feel super disconnected. Is there any beauty left in this world?!
We promise there is. Instead of doomscrolling about the latest in climate news, try logging off and going out to explore! Go hiking or kayaking or cycling. Swim in a lake, lay on a beach, ski a mountain…whatever you want! No matter where you live or what your budget is, take some time to absorb and appreciate the nature that still surrounds you. So get outside, friend!
8. Channel Your Creativity
Channeling your grief into a creative outlet is a really healthy coping strategy. And the good news is — there are endless ways to get creative! If you’re a words person, try blogging, poetry or writing stories. Love art? Then try painting, sketching, or sculpting! If you’re into music, play an instrument, sing or write your own songs.
Use these creative activities to explore your eco-grief and, if you feel comfortable, share your work with others! It might inspire them and open up more conversations about the environment and the universal climate grief so many of us are going through. Plus, getting creative is just really fun! So there’s that.
9. Practice Self-Care
It’s more than okay to take time for yourself and practice some much needed self-care. It’s also okay to say no to things that don’t align with your environmental values, or set boundaries with people who aren’t understanding of your feelings.
Self-care can look like so many things! It’s not just going for walks, lighting candles or doing a face mask (but we 100% love those options too!). It’s also about looking after your mental and emotional wellbeing, whatever that looks like for you. Take breaks when you need to and show yourself some love! You deserve it.
10. Grief Therapy Is A Valid Option
Talking about grief in therapy isn’t reserved only for breakups or the loss of loved ones. Your climate grief is also important and deserves attention! Speaking to a therapist about your feelings of grief, trauma and anxiety over the loss of the environment can be really helpful. Your therapist will help you navigate your thoughts and feelings in a safe space where you can feel heard and understood. It also doesn’t hurt to ask for recommendations to find a therapist who specializes in grief, or even eco-grief specifically! If there’s no one in your area, see if there are online options available.
We hope these tips help you process your climate grief and make you feel less alone. And we just wanna add that we’re sooo proud of you for recognizing your feelings and looking for ways to cope with environmental grief! ‘Cause your feelings matter, always.