What's Climate Grief? Definition + Examples | Cake Blog (2023)

Climate grief, or ecological grief, as it’s sometimes called, is directly related to your mental health and how it’s affected by changes in the climate or the natural environment around you. Whenever there are changes to the ecology and climate, you experience grief and mourning for the loss of nature and the way things were.

Jump ahead to these sections:

  • What’s Climate, or Ecological, Grief?
  • How Does Climate Grief Work?
  • Examples of Climate Grief

Simply put, when the environment that you’re familiar with abruptly changes, you can suffer a devastating loss.

When several changes or disasters occur one after another, you suffer in multitudes creating what is known as collective grief. Communities that rely on the environment for their livelihood are more likely to suffer collective grief because their entire way of living can change with just one natural disaster occurring.

The impact of that one environmental change can create a ripple effect on the rest of their lives compounding their losses.

What’s Climate, or Ecological, Grief?

Climate change that causes distress creates a perfect environment for grief, loss, and mourning. These changes can cause anxiety and fear of the unknown. When you’re dependent on the climate or ecological systems in place to thrive and sometimes survive where you live, and then things change unexpectedly, it can create a high level of distress.

There are areas in this world and in our own backyard that depend on the predictability of the climate to go about daily life. For example, in North America, there are portions of Canada that rely on the land, ice, and sea to provide its inhabitants with ways of transporting about from one area to the next. When the weather behaves in unexpected ways creating changes to the ecology that are occurring outside of the normal, it can be psychologically devastating.

This level of devastation can end up creating a ripe environment for experiencing grief and suffering.

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How is climate grief different than other types of grief?

Climate grief differs from other types of grief associated with losses related to death, divorce, or other types of losses in that it usually has a cumulative effect on all areas of your life. It can be difficult to compartmentalize your losses, so you may be left dealing with a greater grief load from having suffered loss after loss in a relatively short amount of time.

The term “grief overload” can apply here in that you experience so much loss and devastation in such a small window of time that you begin to feel as if you just can’t take it anymore. You have reached a level of saturation that there is simply nowhere else to fit any more grief, sadness, and pain.

Another way in which this type of loss differs is that there's usually no escaping your grief because the climate or ecological changes tend to affect all parts of your life. This is especially true when a natural disaster strikes devastating an entire area or way of life. The way you cope with the distress brought on by climate change follows the standard five stages of grief model.

How Does Climate Grief Work?

Climate grief tends to surface the most when you’re unable to cope with the changes in your environment in a healthy way. You may be suffering from distress, sadness, and depression due to the changes occurring in your surrounding landscape. Sometimes these changes tend to isolate a specific area or group of people, in effect developing ecological grief that ultimately transforms into collective grief.

This type of grief also affects you by having the potential of creating anxiety and hopelessness when you’re faced with a changing climate. The stages of climate grief are the same as those that affect other types of grief but interpreted in a way that makes sense to this particular type of loss.

Having lost an entire way of life or other means of sustainability affects you differently than when you’ve suffered the loss of a loved one due to death. The ways in which you can expect to process your grief, in this case, are as follows (and in no particular order):

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1. Denial

Denial occurs when you refuse to accept the truth for the way things really are. It may take a while for you to process your loss. Usually, this happens when you’re in a state of shock immediately following your loss.

This stage can extend through a matter of days or even weeks where you’re unable to process what has occurred and the extent of your loss or losses.

2. Anger

Anger is a natural response to loss and is quite normal to feel this way after suffering a loss that is difficult to accept. This stage usually follows the denial stage and is easy to pinpoint because you may start to feel angry at the world and everyone around you.

You begin to look at external sources to blame for your loss and you may lash out at others who may not have had any participation in the creation of your loss.

3. Bargaining

Bargaining takes place when you find yourself making deals with yourself, others, your higher power - anyone that will listen, really. You try to mitigate your losses by making promises to do or act in a certain way if only you could take back what you’ve lost. This stage doesn’t get you any closer to regaining what was lost, but it’s often a step that is needed to get you closer to healing.

4. Depression

This stage is typically the one where the most work is often needed to overcome your grief. When you’re feeling depressed, it’s often difficult for you to see things clearly and rationally thus delaying your healing process.

It helps to take a break away from any negativity surrounding your loss such as taking a break from the news, for example, and connecting with others in your community for support. It also helps to read books on grief to help you understand what you’re going through.

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5. Acceptance

Accepting your loss is the final step toward healing. Getting to this step doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve resolved all of your grief, but it does mean that you’re now ready to move forward from your grief.

You may still feel bouts of depression and anger from time to time, but this is all a healthy part of recovering from your loss. Acceptance brings understanding and renewed hope.

Examples of Climate Grief

Whenever you experience climate change whether it's predicted or unexpected, it creates a level of stress, anxiety, and sometimes a fear of the unknown. These changes can occur when you move from one area to another, or as a result of a natural disaster. Either way, you suffer a distinct loss that directly impacts the way you interact within your surroundings. You may have been accustomed to the weather always being sunny and spent your days at the beach, and now you may live with gloomy skies every day.

Perhaps you moved from an area that had stunning mountain vistas and now you live in the plains of middle America with nothing to look at for miles on end. Whatever caused your environment to change, these changes are directly tied to how you view your current environment and landscape.

When things change, you mourn the loss of what's familiar to you. And when things change unexpectedly due to extreme weather conditions or natural disasters, you experience an increased level of anxiety for the loss of landscape you were once familiar with. Examples of these types of changes that cause climate grief are:

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Crop-damaging heatwave

Every season, farmers and other agricultural businesses rely on the climate to behave in a certain way. Predictions are made as to when crops will be ready for planting and harvesting, the expected outputs are carefully measured, and budgets are calculated based on these findings.

When things don’t go as predicted as when a crop-damaging heatwave causes a farmer to lose his crops, therefore, his profits, anxiety turns to fear which in turn can turn into a chronic sadness or depression.

These types of losses attributed to climate change and disaster can be financially and emotionally devastating. A farmer who has lost his crops is likely to suffer from climate grief.

Tsunami

When a major event like a tsunami devastates an entire region and way of living, it is likely to affect thousands upon thousands of people who call the area their home.

A tsunami has the power to destroy entire communities, wreak havoc on the ecological systems in place, and cause massive amounts of death and destruction in its wake. People who’ve suffered this type of loss can attest to the levels of grief experienced after such devastation.

Blizzards

Heavy and unpredicted snowfalls not only have the potential to destroy an ecological system of a particular area, but they also can cause people living in the are to become isolated from one another leading to greater cases of depression.

As with any type of quarantine, it becomes difficult to sustain isolation for long periods of time without going a little bit “stir crazy” and cut off from the rest of the world.

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Coping With Ecological Changes

Dealing with the loss of your environment can be challenging and isolating. Most grief rituals are aimed at easing the pain and suffering due to other types of losses. Though there may not be as many healing tools in place for coping with ecological change, talking with others can provide some respite.

In particular, it’s helpful to participate in dialogues with others in your community to share your experiences and to help one another cope with your loss. With ecological changes, you are not alone in your suffering.

FAQs

What is climate change grief? ›

Climate grief is a psychological response to ecological loss related to the changing climate. This grief can be experienced as profound sadness, helplessness, guilt, anxiety, or numbness related to the climate crisis.

How do you manage grief in climate? ›

10 Ways To Process Climate Grief
  1. Acknowledge Your Feelings. Obviously, nobody LIKES to feel emotional pain. ...
  2. Look At What You CAN Change. ...
  3. Then Accept What You CAN'T Change. ...
  4. Know That You're Not Alone. ...
  5. Get Involved With Like-Minded People. ...
  6. Use Your Support System. ...
  7. Enjoy Spending Time In Nature. ...
  8. Channel Your Creativity.
2 Mar 2021

What are the 5 types of grief? ›

Persistent, traumatic grief can cause us to cycle (sometimes quickly) through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. These stages are our attempts to process change and protect ourselves while we adapt to a new reality.

What does it mean to think about climate change as a work of mourning? ›

The work of mourning further exposes our individual and collective vul- nerability not only to other humans who are currently experiencing the burden of global climatic changes, but also to non-human bodies and processes transforming because of climate change.

What are climate emotions? ›

Climate emotions are defined as affective phenomena which are significantly related to the climate crisis, even though there may be many kinds of factors influencing people's emotions at a certain moment—such as the general situation in one's life, one's temperament, daily events, social dynamics, and climate change ...

How do you deal with climate change emotionally? ›

Instead of letting that doomsday scenario overwhelm you, Evans recommends getting a handle on your eco-anxiety with the following approaches:
  1. Get educated about climate change. ...
  2. Find concrete ways to make a difference. ...
  3. Reframe negative thoughts. ...
  4. Address all the stressors in your life, not just climate change.
11 Jul 2020

How can I stop worrying about climate change? ›

There are lots of ways you can take action as an individual to live a more environmentally-friendly life:
  1. Use your reusable coffee cup.
  2. Take reusable bags and containers to the shops with you.
  3. Turn off lights when you're not using them.
  4. Reduce, reuse, recycle. ...
  5. Use public transport or car-pool.
  6. Eat less meat.

Is climate anxiety a mental illness? ›

What is climate anxiety? Climate anxiety, or eco-anxiety, is distress related to worries about the effects of climate change. It is not a mental illness. Rather, it is anxiety rooted in uncertainty about the future and alerting us to the dangers of a changing climate.

What are examples of grief? ›

Some examples include:
  • Leaving home.
  • Illness/loss of health.
  • Death of a pet.
  • Change of job.
  • Moving to a new home.
  • Graduation from school.
  • Loss of a physical ability.
  • Loss of financial security.

What is the most common type of grief? ›

1. Normal Grief. Grief in and of itself is normal. Any time you suffer a loss, it's the most normal thing in the world to have feelings of grief.

What are the 12 steps of grief? ›

12 Steps in Grief Process
  • RECOVER FROM A LOVED ONE'S DEATH REQUIRES MORE THAN TIME. ...
  • GRIEF IS UNIVERSAL - GRIEVERS ARE DISTINCTIVE. ...
  • SHOCK INITIATES US INTO MOURNING. ...
  • GRIEF CAUSES DEPRESSION. ...
  • GRIEF IS HAZARDOUS TO OUR HEALTH. ...
  • GRIEVERS NEED TO KNOW THEY'RE NORMAL. ...
  • GRIEVERS SUFFER GUILT FEELINGS. ...
  • GRIEF MAKES PEOPLE ANGRY.

What is environmental anxiety? ›

Eco-anxiety refers to a fear of environmental damage or ecological disaster. This sense of anxiety is largely based on the current and predicted future state of the environment and human-induced climate change.

Where is the safest place for climate change? ›

Sacramento, California is the best place to live for climate change in 2022. 60% of the top 10 places to live in the U.S. for climate change are in California.

How does climate change affect biodiversity? ›

Rising temperatures in the oceans affect marine organisms. Corals are particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures and ocean acidification can make it harder for shellfish and corals in the upper ocean to form shells and hard skeletons. We have also seen changes in occurrence of marine algae blooms.

How can we live with climate change? ›

What would you like to do?
  1. Urge government to take bold, ambitious climate action now.
  2. Help raise climate ambition by painting your town with climate art.
  3. Use energy wisely — and save money too!
  4. Mobilize for local climate action.
  5. Green your commute.
  6. Start a climate conversation.
  7. Consume less, waste less, enjoy life more.

What are 10 ways to stop climate change? ›

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
  2. Walk, Bike (run, skate, move yourself!)
  3. Ride the bus to work (or carpool)
  4. Plant a tree.
  5. Use Less Heat and Air Conditioning.
  6. Change a Light Bulb.
  7. Buy a fuel efficient car (or hybrid vehicle)
  8. Buy local goods and products.

How can I make a real difference in climate change? ›

  1. Make your voice heard by those in power. ...
  2. Eat less meat and dairy. ...
  3. Cut back on flying. ...
  4. Leave the car at home. ...
  5. Reduce your energy use, and bills. ...
  6. Respect and protect green spaces. ...
  7. Invest your money responsibly. ...
  8. Cut consumption – and waste.

How does climate change affect our emotional health? ›

The mental health consequences of events linked to a changing global climate include mild stress and distress, high-risk coping behavior such as increased alcohol use and, occasionally, mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

Why should we be worried about climate change? ›

Climate change won't just impact forest, or coral reefs, or even people in far-off countries – it will affect all of us. From more extreme weather to increasing food prices, to recreation and decreased opportunities to appreciate the natural world, people everywhere will feel its effects.

Can we reverse climate change? ›

Yes. While we cannot stop global warming overnight, we can slow the rate and limit the amount of global warming by reducing human emissions of heat-trapping gases and soot (“black carbon”).

Why is climate change important? ›

Climate change is already impacting human health. Changes in weather and climate patterns can put lives at risk. Heat is one of the most deadly weather phenomena. As ocean temperatures rise, hurricanes are getting stronger and wetter, which can cause direct and indirect deaths.

What is the most important issue facing the environment today? ›

Climate change is the big environmental problem that humanity will face over the next decade, but it isn't the only one. We'll take a look at some of them — from water shortages and loss of biodiversity to waste management — and discuss the challenges we have ahead of us.

What will happen if we don't stop climate change? ›

The wildlife we love and their habitat will be destroyed, leading to mass species extinction. Superstorms, drought, and heat waves would become increasingly common and more extreme, leading to major health crises and illness. Agricultural production would plummet, likely leading to global food shortages and famine.

What does climate anxiety look like? ›

Categorised as a state of heightened anxiousness, climate anxiety is often described with terms like guilt, grief and desperation as an overwhelming sense of doom about the state of the environment emerges.

What causes climate anxiety? ›

Climate anxiety is a type of anxiety caused by the ecological destruction of our planet. People with climate anxiety may experience fear and worry about the future, as well as depression and anger.

What does the term climate anxiety mean to you? ›

Someone experiencing climate anxiety may feel worried, nervous, or scared of the consequences of climate change, and what the future holds for our planet. They may also experience low mood connected to a broader sense of hopelessness or helplessness.

What is the best definition of grief? ›

Definition of grief

1a : deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement his grief over his son's death. b : a cause of such suffering life's joys and griefs. 2a : trouble, annoyance enough grief for one day.

What is the definition of grief and loss? ›

Grief is a normal response to loss during or after a disaster or other traumatic event. Grief can happen in response to loss of life, as well as to drastic changes to daily routines and ways of life that usually bring us comfort and a feeling of stability. Common grief reactions include: Shock, disbelief, or denial.

What are things that cause grief? ›

Grieving: Facing Illness, Death, and Other Losses
  • Death of a loved one, including pets.
  • Divorce or changes in a relationship, including friendships.
  • Changes in your health or the health of a loved one.
  • Losing a job or changes in financial security.
1 Sept 2000

What is a healthy type of grief? ›

The normal types of grief include crying or expressing emotion, based on one's cultural socialization, during the acute period of loss or during times of remembrance of the loss. Being able to go on with one's life with minimal disruption.

Is grief a form of love? ›

Perhaps the most painful kind of love is called grief, which happens when the object of a person's love is taken away with no hope for return. Grief is love and the confusion caused by not knowing how to love someone who is gone. Grief is love's frustration, bitterness, anger, and resentment at death's destruction.

Can grief affect your brain? ›

Don't worry, this is a natural part of grief. Your brain is on overload with thoughts of grief, sadness, loneliness and many other feelings. Grief Brain affects your memory, concentration, and cognition. Your brain is focused on the feelings and symptoms of grief which leaves little room for your everyday tasks.

What is the hardest stage of grief? ›

Depression is usually the longest and most difficult stage of grief.

How long do people normally grieve? ›

Timeline of grief

There is no set length or duration for grief, and it may come and go in waves. However, according to 2020 research , people who experience common grief may experience improvements in symptoms after about 6 months, but the symptoms largely resolve in about 1 to 2 years.

Who is most affected by eco-anxiety? ›

The condition has become especially common among children and young people – in some universities over 70% of students have self described as suffering from eco-anxiety, though as of early 2021, validated ways to assess the prevalence of climate or eco-anxiety were not well established.

How do you deal with environmental issues? ›

Here are 5 simple ways you can help the environment and spark others to become more environmentally aware.
  1. Replace disposable items with reusable. ...
  2. Pass on paper. ...
  3. Conserve water & electricity. ...
  4. Support local & environmentally friendly. ...
  5. Recycle (& then recycle properly)
1 Jun 2019

Who suffers from eco-anxiety? ›

Eco-anxiety can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. However, researchers have found that certain groups are more at risk of eco-anxiety than others. These include young people, indigenous groups, and those who — for one reason or another — are more connected to the natural environment.

How do you deal with climate anxiety? ›

How to deal with eco-anxiety
  1. Don't aim for perfect. While it's easy to feel like it's your sole responsibility to save the world on your own, try to let go of unnecessary worry by accepting that you can only control what you can control. ...
  2. Change the channel. ...
  3. Change your mindset. ...
  4. Make climate action fun.

What is environmental anxiety? ›

Eco-anxiety refers to a fear of environmental damage or ecological disaster. This sense of anxiety is largely based on the current and predicted future state of the environment and human-induced climate change.

How does global warming affect mental health? ›

The mental health consequences of events linked to a changing global climate include mild stress and distress, high-risk coping behavior such as increased alcohol use and, occasionally, mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

How will climate change make me feel? ›

Climate change is a real threat, and therefore it's normal to experience worry and fear about the consequences. Anxiety about the climate is often accompanied by feelings of grief, anger, guilt, and shame, which in turn can affect mood, behavior, and thinking.

What causes climate anxiety? ›

Climate anxiety is a type of anxiety caused by the ecological destruction of our planet. People with climate anxiety may experience fear and worry about the future, as well as depression and anger.

Is climate anxiety a good thing? ›

“Climate anxiety is not in itself a problem,” says Britt Wray, a Stanford researcher who specializes in climate change and mental health. “It's actually a very healthy and normal response to have when one understands the escalating civilizational threat that we're dealing with when it comes to the climate crisis.

Who is most affected by eco-anxiety? ›

The condition has become especially common among children and young people – in some universities over 70% of students have self described as suffering from eco-anxiety, though as of early 2021, validated ways to assess the prevalence of climate or eco-anxiety were not well established.

How do you deal with environmental issues? ›

Here are 5 simple ways you can help the environment and spark others to become more environmentally aware.
  1. Replace disposable items with reusable. ...
  2. Pass on paper. ...
  3. Conserve water & electricity. ...
  4. Support local & environmentally friendly. ...
  5. Recycle (& then recycle properly)
1 Jun 2019

Who suffers from eco-anxiety? ›

Eco-anxiety can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. However, researchers have found that certain groups are more at risk of eco-anxiety than others. These include young people, indigenous groups, and those who — for one reason or another — are more connected to the natural environment.

How does climate affect human life? ›

The health effects of these disruptions include increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events, changes in the prevalence and geographical distribution of food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases, and threats to mental health.

How does climate change affect everyday life? ›

The impacts of climate change on different sectors of society are interrelated. Drought can harm food production and human health. Flooding can lead to disease spread and damages to ecosystems and infrastructure. Human health issues can increase mortality, impact food availability, and limit worker productivity.

How does climate change affect human behavior? ›

Droughts, floods, and severe storms diminish quality of life, elevate stress, produce psychological distress, and may elevate interpersonal and intergroup conflict. Recreational opportunities are compromised by extreme weather, and children may suffer delayed cognitive development.

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