Climate grief can’t be cured, but it can be addressed

Image by: Jodie Grieve

Sometimes, when I’m aching over my resume’s format, cover letter narratives, and addressing the scary thing people call “post-graduate life,” a niggling voice reaches out of a dark place in my mind to ask: “What’s the point?” 

If the world’s going to end in an apocalyptic tidal wave or firestorm sooner rather than later, the last thing I should be worrying about is concisely expressing my work experience in four bullet points or less. 

Though I’ve struggled to put a name to this feeling of doom, it can be categorized under what’s now known as climate grief: the emotional toll of environmental damage due to the climate crisis, and the anxiety surrounding the grim prognosis of our planet. 

Given the increased visibility of the climate crisis’ effects through the media, generational feelings of fear, hopelessness, and resignation are becoming more common. For the people affected by the Amazon or Australian fires, or Brazil’s floods, climate grief manifests itself in the tangible loss of homes, livelihoods, and loved ones. In Canada, where we’ve been fortunate enough to avoid large-scale devastation, it can still feel like we’re extras in a dystopian horror film. 

This climate grief is akin to grief for a lost family member or friend. We’re mourning the destruction of our home, natural phenomena, and landscapes, and the lives of people who are directly impacted by the climate crisis. And, like grief for a loved one, climate grief can’t just be cured, especially as the world’s environment so obviously continues to deteriorate. 

Though we can’t make climate grief disappear, we can—and should—address our feelings of guilt, anger, and despair surrounding it. These feelings are valid, and this grief is a topic worth talking about, whether to a friend, family members, or a professional. 

Despite its validity, climate grief shouldn’t change our rhetoric on the climate crisis. Calling the state of the Earth anything other than an emergency is irresponsible, undermining the severity of the problem we’re facing. Our grief shouldn’t censor or immobilize us. 

Letting our anxiety about the planet’s state scare us into inaction is the same as avoiding the job market out of fear for what life after university holds. If we let our grief overrun us instead of moving forward with it, we’re jeopardizing not only our individual futures, but our collective one.  

This isn’t to say that we should suppress our negative emotions. The climate crisis is sad, and that’s okay to admit. 

The earth is as present and important in our lives as our friends, family members, and peers. There’s no shame in mourning it or worrying about what comes next, as long as we move past these feelings and fight for our environment.  

Ally is The Journal’s Lifestyle Editor. She’s a fourth-year English student.


climate crisis, environmentalism, Mental health

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