On December 1, 2019, a small group met at Camden Whole Health for our first forum on Climate Grief. Climate Grief, also known as “eco-anxiety” or “climate anxiety” is a term used to describe the uncomfortable emotions people are having in response to the climate crisis. I prefer the term Climate Grief because I think it better represents the full spectrum of emotions that people are experiencing in relation to the changing climate. While strong emotions about the climate crisis are normal and quite understandable, like any strong emotions they can interfere with our ability to live our lives and take appropriate action. Just think about a time when you have grieved the loss of a loved one. During the acute grieving phase you may have felt like all you could do was survive. But as your grief shifted you experienced a new sense of purpose and direction.

The US Global Change Research Program* has published research about the health effects of climate change. While most of us know about the changes, and anticipated changes to our oceans in the form of temperature change and sea-level rise, the greenhouse gas effect, and the dying off of other species, many of us have not heard about the direct health effects-both physical and psychological (and in some cases spiritual) to humans. And, yet many of us are already experiencing some health-related consequences of climate change. The dramatic increase in tick-borne illness is one very present and real consequence in the midcoast. Environmental allergies, heat-related illness, waterborne illness, and premature births are also on the rise. In addition, there are changes in our mental health. More and more people are reporting chronic stress, symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression related to climate change. Immigration is often driven by climate-related environmental and social strains leading to mass displacement and trauma. And for others, decreasing resources will lead to social instability and even violence. No wonder we’re stressed!

When considering the climate crisis emotions range from despair and depression to anger and anxiety, to disappointment and sadness and finally to numbness or the lack of emotion. If we think of grief as a process that encompasses all of these feelings, then the term climate grief fits. One remarkable quality of grief is the ever-changing emotions that arise and fall within an individual. People generally move back and forth through numbness, anxiety, anger, and sadness finally finding acceptance and resolve to continue living. Therefore while painful and confusing, grief also offers hope. Grief offers the possibility of something new and different on the other side. People generally experience a sense of renewal and rebirth as their grief resolves.

When it comes to the climate crisis I believe we all need to move through grief into the renewal phase so as to free up our energy to take action on behalf of ourselves and our community, the planet and other species, and all of humanity. My goals for the forum are to provide education about the process of climate grieving, create a supportive environment in which participants can share their feelings about the crisis, help build resilience and a community of people who are ready to take action. There will be a didactic presentation, discussion and opportunities for personal expression through talking, writing, and creative arts expression.

If any of this resonates with you, please come check out what we’re doing! The forum is free and open to the public. The next forum is scheduled for Sunday, January 12th, 5-6:30 pm at Camden Whole Health. If you have questions or would like more information please contact me at BarbaraDavisLCSW@gmail.com.

Check the CWH January newsletter for details!

*For the full report go to https://health2016.globalchange.gov/