The 12 Steps for Climate Grief: Steps 1-3

What follows are the 12 steps I created for ClimateGriefGroup.org. I adapted these from the 10 steps used by the Good Grief Network.


Step 1: Accept the Severity of Our Predicament

Only after discerning where we are, can we discern the path to where we want to go.

Acceptance is often listed as the last stage of the grieving process. For us, acceptance is the beginning, not the end.

The human and other-than-human beings who inhabit this planet need us to wake up and to stay awake. When we become aware of the scope and severity of our predicament, we must not retreat into apathy or distraction. We must invite the grief into our being and let it move through our whole animal body.

If you’re interested in participating in or creating a Climate Grief Group, you are probably already aware of the losses which are being and will be caused by climate change and by the continued growth of industrial civilization. While staying informed is important, remember that “doom scrolling” or unmindful consumption of “disaster porn” is unhealthy.

If, however, you want to understand why other people are experiencing climate grief and eco-anxiety, here are some useful links.


Step 2: Acknowledge that We Are All a Part of the Problem

The ways that we try to conceal our inadequacies are usually worse than what we are trying to conceal.

We can all think of ways that we could live in more ecologically responsible ways. Diet, travel, and family size are three of the most significant ways to reduce our impact.

But no matter how consciously we consume, no matter how “green” our lifestyle, we still contribute to climate change just by being a part of this civilization. We are all caught up in a system too vast for any individual to even comprehend, much less change. That does not absolve us of responsibility, however.

Of course, there are individuals and institutions who, by virtue of having greater power in this system, also have greater responsibility. Greedy oil executives and corrupt politicians are obvious culprits. But we cannot evade our own responsibility by pointing the finger at them.

While we work to change the system, we must still live within the system. Therefore we must try to navigate that system with as much integrity as possible, even while knowing that our choices are limited by forces beyond our control.

When we’re honest with ourselves about our own responsibility, we can avoid projecting our feelings of guilt onto other individuals or groups. Holding space for our feelings of guilt or shame allows us to act from a place of integrity and compassion for others.


Step 3: Practice Sitting with Uncertainty

If you’re falling … dive.

— Mark Matousek

Change is unavoidable. Everything in the universe changes. Every living thing, every bit of matter, all the energy in the universe is constantly changing in some way. This is especially true of the Earth, which is a living system. If life does not change, it dies. That applies human societies as well.

We know this on an abstract level, but it is hard to accept in practice. So we engage in myriad strategies to avoid this truth, trying to create for ourselves a life of certainty and security. But certainty is generally an illusion. 

The key to resilience is adaptation. We can build resilience in our daily lives by avoiding attachment to specific outcomes and practicing adaptation to changing circumstances.

To be continued …

Published by John Halstead

John Halstead is the author of *Another End of the World is Possible*, in which he explores what it would really mean for our relationship with the natural world if we were to admit that we are doomed. John is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is a co-founder of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which worked to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the Statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post, PrayWithYourFeet.org, and Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of HumanisticPaganism.com. John also facilitates climate grief support groups climate grief support groups affiliated with the Good Grief Network.

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