By Penny Hill
I’ve been experiencing climate grief for quite a while.
When we were first building our garden in the early 2000’s, I recognized the rapid decline of butterfly numbers. This made me remember how very many butterflies there were when I was child. I was taken by an extreme sadness that the children growing up then ( and now) wouldn’t have this memory. And if they didn’t know that in the summer butterflies could be thick in the air, they wouldn’t know to fight for it.
As we continued to garden, the weather became erratic. Reliable weather patterns were upended. Each year was like starting over, never quite knowing what the conditions were going to be, or how the seasons would unfold.
The first years in our house, the birdsong was LOUD! It actually woke me up early in the morning and interrupted my sleep. Now there is little in the way of birds singing.
I’m sure in your way you’ve had to contend with climate change and had to emotionally deal with losses and changes. I know I still sometimes struggle with it, and the powerlessness I feel about the situation.
So, what to do?
First, remember that You are not your feelings. You have feelings, but you are not them. You feel many different things and feelings change, but YOU are the constant beyond them. Find that YOU and spend some time with her. Meditation is a great tool to employ.
But, sometimes that is hard to do I know. We are swamped, and the downward drag of emotional weight seems too much to overcome. So then you employ some tools. One step would be to clearly and specifically identify the areas of grief you have. Its going to be a bit different for everyone. Your concern may be for the Earth herself or the effects of climate change on people. You, or someone you know, might have lost a home to climate change, in a hurricane, flood or fire. You may be deeply concerned about wildlife. Or the economic effect on humans, driving the vulnerable into deeper poverty. There’s probably more than a little anger mixed in there too. Although anger is often seen as the overcoat that grief wears, you may feel them as two distinctly emotions.
When you have this issue parsed out, then you start to tap. EFT is an amazing tool to shift emotions and release old emotional weight that is adding to today’s troubles. As always, don’t try to go too fast by being global. Take each part of your grief individually. And as you tap on your grief or anger watch for any memories or thoughts of earlier times in your life when you may have felt this way. Our emotions today are built on our experiences yesterday, and all our yesterdays. Today’s climate grief may be built on another type of grief, another type of loss, that left you feeling in a similar way. Now you’ve found a root that makes you more vulnerable, and releasing that emotional memory can help you with today’s climate grief, and perhaps other kinds of grief or low-energy emotions as well.
This is how tapping works. We start with a big issue, or a global issue (emotionally global that is, like “I’m sad and angry about climate change”), and we narrow the focus down to specific events. Our emotions and reactions were formed in certain pivotal experiences, or in the cumulative effect of many similar events.
This can be a bit tricky to do alone, especially at first. If you’d like some help you can always reach out and we’ll talk about how tapping might help you.
Other ways to tackle climate grief:
Talk to others about it. Largely, people are not talking about their feelings about climate change. For myself I think I avoid those discussions because I’m so angry, and all my friends are so angry, that we’ve seen this coming for 50 – 100 years and the people who are in position to make the policies that would have kept us from getting here have not done what should have been done. And that makes me feel powerless, which makes me angry, and sad. So the cycle of grief and sadness runs on and on. But talking with others can be very helpful, providing an off-ramp so to speak out of your own head.
The life issues that climate change affects is wide. Our favorite outdoor activities may be unavailable because of heat, or lack of water in streams and rivers. To save fish and wildlife we may have to take down dams which may affect the power grid. Certain geological features may no longer be available to experience, such as glaciers. Climate change is literally drowning communities and driving people from their homes. Other questions such as do we have kids, where will it be safe to live in 20 years, what kind of work will be available and for whom, are all questions young people are asking themselves now. As well as what can I do?
And although the tide is rising, it is also turning. Reading the Sierra Club magazine has helped me be more hopeful. And getting involved in action can ward off powerlessness.
It’s getting harder to ignore the impact of global climate change on mental health, so I was happy to find https://www.climatepsychiatry.org/ A place to talk about this, find actions to take, and explore the range of emotions you may be experiencing about this pressing issue. I urge you to examine your feelings about this issue and deal with any emotions that may be sucking your energy reserves. This crisis is not going to be resolved any time soon, and our own health suffers when we experience chronic grief, anger and sadness. I believe that happiness is our true state, and regardless of what is happening in the rest of the world, we have more creativity, vision, hope and energy to ACT, when we are coming from a basis of love and happiness.