And I would travel with you
to the places of our shame
To hills stripped of trees, the marsh grasses
oil-slicked, steeped in sewage;
The blackened shoreline, the chemical-poisoned water;
I would stand with you in the desolate places, the charred places,
soil where nothing will ever grow, pitted desert;
Fields that burn slowly for months; roots of cholla and chaparral
writhing with underground explosions
I would put my hand
there with yours, I would take your hand, I would walk with you
Through carefully planted fields, rows of leafy vegetables
drifting with radioactive dust; through the dark
of uranium mines hidden in the sacred gold red mountains;
I would listen to you in drafty hospital corridors
as the miner cried out in the first language
Of pain; as he cried out
the forgotten names of his mother
I would stand
next to you in the forest’s
Final hour, in the wind
of helicopter blades, police
Sirens shrieking, the delicate
tremor of light between
Leaves for the last
time. Oh I would touch with this love each
ANITA BARROWS: AS QUOTED IN COMING BACK TO LIFE BY JOANNA MACY AND MOLLY YOUNG BROWN (1998 NEW SOCIETY PUBLISHERS) PG 38.
Programs & Resources
Calgary Eco-grief Support Circle: “We are a group of Calgarians who seek to create a container in which we can mutually support each other in honouring and releasing the grief and gratitude, pain and awe that we feel for our Earth.” For access to the Facebook group, contact Laura Keeth-Rowledge at email@example.com.
Good Grief program: Friends of Fish Creek is a Calgary-based Provincial Park Society that has programs focused on connecting with nature to cope with other forms of grief.
Healing Ceremonies: Refugia offers healing ceremonies focused on helping individuals and communities work through ecological grief. You can read about one such example in our blog; Mourning Trees: The Pain, the Compassion, and the Community.
The Work that Reconnects: Refugia offers workshops focused on moving through grief and into action using The Work That Reconnects framework (see below for more information about WTR). These workshops are usually 3-6 hours and typically run twice per year.
Bumbleberry Wellness: offers yoga classes and workshops with an eco-perspective to foster self-healing and an environmental perspective.
Dharma Chasers podcast: Environmental Connection episode
Good Grief Network: Online community and resource that builds personal resilience while strengthening community ties to help combat despair, inaction, eco-anxiety, and other heavy emotions in the face of daunting systemic predicaments. Network weavers Aimee and LaUra also offer workshops and facilitation.
Work That Reconnects Activities
The Work that Reconnects is a critical framework that draws on ecology, spirituality and psychology to build empowerment, creativity and resilience for transition to a sustainable world. This framework includes a Theory of Change and personal practices for gratitude, grief and action. Below are practices and interviews with the root teacher of The Work That Reconnects, Joanna Macy.
Open Sentences is a guided exercise that can be done in groups or as a journalling activity.
Instructions are in the hyperlink. And linked here is an example of a group working through Open Sentences.
Cairn of Mourning is a ritualized exercise for personal and communal mourning.
Befriending Our Despair : Joanna Macy
Transforming Despair : An Interview with Joanna Macy
Other Work that Reconnects information and resources can be found at:
Eco-grief and Eco-feminism (Heidi Hutner)
The More Beautiful World our Hearts know is possible (Charles Einstein)
“Chasing the Light” (Zaria Forman)
To Grieve or Not to Grieve by: Ashlee Cunsolo
Is this how you feel? (Creative Commons)
Hope and Mourning in the Anthropocene by: Neville Ellis, Ashlee Cunsolo
Ecological Grief as a Mental Health to Climate Change Related Loss by: Neville R. Ellis, Ashlee Cunsolo
‘The Lost Summer’: The Emotional and Spiritual Toll of the Smoke Apocalypse by: Sharon J. Riley
The Ecology of Grief: by: Phyllis Windle
How to Deal with Eco-Discouragement and Feeling like it's Impossible to make a Difference: by: Roberta Waddell, (a member of the Refugia network).
Healing Humanity's grief in the face of climate change: by: David Suzuki
The Best Medicine for My Climate Grief: by: Peter Kalmus
Thesis: Mourning the Ghost: Ecological Grief in the Ghost River Valley by Amy Spark
Earth Prayers: 365 Poems, Prayers and Invocations from Around the World by: Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon
Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by: Kathleen Dean Moore
Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction by: Thom van Dooren
Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by : Rebecca Solnit
Mourning Nature: Hope at the Heart of Ecological Loss and Grief by: Ashlee Cunsolo and Karen Landman
On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss by: Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler (While this classic is not specific to environmental grief, it is still a helpful resource.)
Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in Without Going Crazy by: Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone)
Coming Back to Life by: Joanna Macy & Molly Brown
In the Body of the World by: Eve Ensler
Refuge by: Terry Tempest Williams
Ray Bonneville. “So Long Blues”
Corb Lund. “Gettin’ Down On the Mountain”
Serena Ryder. “Dark as the Black”
What resources or practices have you found helpful when dealing with Ecological Grief? Please share your favorites with us in the comments section below.