by Hannah Keene

I’m sitting here, on a rainy August morning in Chicago, with immense grief and despair about the destruction of the wildfires in Hawaii. How are you engaging with this news? Take a moment and pause. Scan your body and see what comes up for you. What intuitive needs can you sense into? Can you identify a feeling or emotion? Often, when we face the reality of climate change, it comes with the overwhelming weight of grief. And what do we do with that? Grief, like a wildfire, burns without compromise. After the burn, comes transformation in the form of new growth but until then, we are called to create sustainable and actionable repair.

August 30th is National Grief Awareness Day and this year I’m considering how we care for climate grief. There are many layers to grieving our rapidly changing world and when scaling out to see the bigger picture, it can become overwhelming quickly. So, what are some steps you can take to build capacity for the big feelings that come with climate grief? I am offering some suggestions below. 

Feel your grief. Bear witness to your internal emotional landscape. Notice when you start to turn away from your grief. What would it be like to turn toward it and lean in? Hold a place for those indescribable feelings, they’re real and valid. You can be heartbroken and hopeful at the same time. You can be both overwhelmed and courageous. Your grief is a reflection of your joy.

Move or connect to your body. Explore slow movement practices like gentle or restorative yoga, dance or shake out your limbs. Practice self-touch. Place a hand over your chest, feeling into your breath or cross your arms and give yourself a squeeze. Try focusing on sensation in your body by feeling into pulsing, tingling, vibration, or tightness. Can you feel the breath at the tip of your nose? Or the expansion and contraction of the breath? 

Connect with nature. Take a nature walk in a park or conservancy (yes, a walk through your city neighborhood counts!) If possible, get outside year-round to get to know seasonal change in native plants and animals. When outside, engage in a more sensory experience of what is around you. Touch grass, seedpods, flower petals or try foraging with guidance from Alexis Nikole. Utilize guided nature visualization and meditations. Watch a nature documentary or read your favorite nature writer. 

Continue to Learn. Root the conversation around climate grief as it relates to the systems of imperialism, colonialism, and capitalism. You are living in a world defined by systems that are not designed for tending to our sorrow. Scaling out offers perspective, you are not alone. Listen to Indigenous peoples and younger folks. The wisdom from generations of land stewardship and care invokes the courage for action and resistance to defeatism. Return to these teachings when you need a reminder. Engage with what feels manageable for you, this might change day to day and that is ok!

 Be in community. Our grief is unique and often can make us feel isolated. You are not alone in this and finding a community can help to feel more rooted. Grief needs a witness and sharing common ground with others is powerful when feeling alone or overwhelmed. Local community and online groups are great ways to connect with others who are also experiencing climate grief. Getting connected offers a chance to share resources, self-care practices, and build relationships when we might feel most alone.

As I write this, I’m holding that this post isn’t scratching the surface of climate change, its effects on our mental health or how we heal. What I can say is this: our grief needs to be tended to through practices of continued learning, tenderness, and ritual. Listed below is an abbreviated list of resources to engage with to feel connected, informed, and practice hope.

“Hope doesn’t preclude feeling sadness or frustration or anger or any other emotion that makes total sense. Hope isn’t an emotion, you know? Hope is not optimism. Hope is a discipline… we have to practice it every single day.” — Mariame Kaba 

With care,

Hannah (she/her)