Climate Grief & Mental Health Support Resources for GA Members

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Disclaimer: The information below provides introductory information & practices on climate grief. The activities and resources below have been crowdsourced from the global community of the Global Assembly. This content is not an exhaustive list and should not be viewed as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. 

Information about ecological losses and experiencing shifts in your worldview within the Global Assembly might result in some physical and psychological responses. Additionally, each of us come from different personal, social and political contexts, and may be dealing with challenges outside of the Global Assembly during our involvement. Recognizing and dealing with this is important for all of us involved and the visions we are working towards.

Terminology Used

Eco(logical) grief

is grief experienced due to endured or anticipated ecological losses, the disruption of environmental knowledge, and the loss of place-based identity due to environmental changes.

Climate anxiety

emerges due to climate change and resulting impacts to peoples and places, anxiety about their future and the future of their potential children. Climate anxiety often conjures a future problem. Climate anxiety, then, is about a fear of some suffering that will manifest in some unknown future; the element of uncertainty is what makes it “anxiety”.

Climate distress and climate trauma:

Because “anxiety” is understood as having no explicit object of distress, it may not be the best word for people who are currently experiencing the impacts of climate change. “Climate distress” and “Climate trauma” capture the immediacy of frontline experiences and distinguish them from “climate anxiety”, which is then reserved for those whose present lives are fairly removed from the direct impacts of climate change.

Broadening our view of climate related anxiety & trauma:

Climate change touches people’s lives in so many ways: from biodiversity, access to resources, and subsistence to policing, health justice, or migration.

Just because some people aren’t suffering from climate anxiety as it is currently defined doesn’t mean they aren’t deeply attuned to what is happening to the world. It is possible to feel climate anxiety even if climate change isn’t the first or worst existential threat of our lives. It is possible that people can feel immense care for the planet and its inhabitants, and not feel anxiety at all; anxiety isn’t a prerequisite for care or action. It is possible to have big feelings about other threats without ever using the words “climate change”.

Tending to these cultural politics of climate anxiety is not about shaming privileged people for their legitimate distress about planetary health and their (perhaps new) awareness of their own vulnerability. Likewise, we shouldn’t shame people who don’t feel climate anxiety, for example, or assume that just because they’re not using the words “climate” or “anxiety” that they aren’t deeply worried about the viability of life on this planet.

The variety of experiences here is important to recognize in order to bring the full powers of emotional intelligence to climate work. But most importantly, the emotional landscape of climate change should be approached with a robust awareness of the cultural politics of emotion: how they shape power relations and change culture, and how culture and power mediate emotions.

Crowdsourced Practices

Talking with others

Creating spaces for people to talk about whatever they perceive, think and feel about the climate and ecological crisis can be helpful. Based on Joanna Macy’s work, different stages can be created to help you understand your feelings and talking about them.

Part 1: You talk about what you are grateful for (in your live, in the world, for other beings), allowing you to be present.

Part 2: You dive in to the part where you try to understand your pain for the world/ the climate crisis. Giving a space to talk about negative feelings (sadness, anger, despair).

Part 3: Ending with ‘seeing with new eyes’, or kind of turning around the negative feelings into what you would like to care and love for. This final part allows the group to not end with negative feelings but to give a feeling of empowerment and knowing why you are acting and feeling accordingly.

Eco-Grief Circles

Members of the Global Assembly that are experiencing feelings of grief and sorrow are encouraged to organize eco-grief circles, either with other Members or Hosts, from the Global Assembly, or together with friends and or family. Having people to share and echo together emotions and feelings helps us to build emotional solidarity.

Potential agenda for an Eco-grief circle:

Opening: Acknowledgement of all that are gathered and the environment in which you are at the moment.

Group Exercise: With the group you can agree upon an exercise to root into the moment and to give shape to the feelings that you are experiencing. Examples: breathwork/meditation, writing prompt, movement/dancing, painting, some yoga poses, etc.

Individual Sharing: One person shares whatever comes to mind. This role can be passed around and space and time to connect threads or respond to one another can be reserved till the end.

Closing: After thanking for everyone's participation and leaving space for spontaneous contributions

Self-reflective practice

Some might prefer to take time for self reflective practices rather than taking part in group activities. Using journaling techniques provide the chance to connect with oneself, and find clarity on some of the emotions and feelings that you are experiencing. The following questions could be used as writing prompts:

  • How do I feel about the impact of climate change?
  • How do I feel about my future, or my family’s future living in uncertain times?
  • What sensations do I experience in my body when I think about Climate/Ecological crisis?
  • What am I grateful for right now?
  • What has worked in the past to overcome problems I have experienced?
  • Who can I turn to for support (you can look beyond your relations and friends and seek support in grassroot organisations in your community)
  • How do I enjoy my time in nature?
  • What is my purpose in the context of Climate/Ecological crisis?
  • What keeps me grounded and what is regenerative for me?

Regenerative practice

Sometimes when we are feeling overwhelmed, we can overlook our basic needs such as eating well and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule. Thinking too much about the future of the planet can start an anxious downward spiral that may become difficult to pull yourself out of. Practicing different techniques allows you to ground yourself in the present and pay attention to where you are now.

  • Practice mindfulness: Scheduling 15-30 minutes every day to practice mindfulness can have great long-term benefits to your mental health. But whatever amount of time you are able to take will have positive outcomes regardless.
  • Do breathwork: Concentrating on breathing helps us reconnecting with ourselves, with our bodily sensations and our feelings.
  • Practice grounding: Unlike mindfulness, which requires both dedicated space and time, grounding consists of mental exercises that can be used discreetly at nearly any time or place. For example: Name 5 things you can see, 4 that you can touch, 3 that you can hear, 2 that you can smell, and 1 that you can taste.
  • Get into nature: immersing oneself in natural spaces is acknowledged to reduce feelings and sensations of anxiety.
  • Practice restorative yoga: bringing together mindful breathing and body movements towards balance.

Taking action

Taking action can inspire a sense of hope and could help to feel less helpless. For different people, ‘taking action’ will look

very different - for some, it could mean joining a community garden; for others, political activism, changing eating habits or pushing for stronger green policies at work. Tackling climate change means different ways of living and engaging with the world around us, and talking about climate change with our peers.

Reducing emissions means globally coordinated systemic solutions, but also profound changes to people’s day-to-day lives – particularly in rich, high-emission countries. While behaviours are starting to shift, low-carbon lifestyles are very far from being the norm.

Whatever you do, feel comfortable with the task you imagine, not every task suits your personality and set of skills, but there is plenty to do. Stay realistic, but commitment can go far. To inspire action you can ask yourself:

  • What 3-5 small changes can I make today?
  • What 3 commitments can I make to help in the next month?

Crowdsourced Resources and Contacts

International resources:

Local & national resources:

This section will be populated with local resources and contacts for psychological & mental health support crowdsourced from our global community.