Grief is Power

Experiencing climate grief is normal. Sydney Bollinger writes about the power that can be found in grief.

Grief is Power
Artwork by Andie Carver

The world is in neverending house-on-fire-and-we’re-sitting-at-the-kitchen-table meme chaos — or it seems so, anyway. News and alerts infiltrate our every being, inescapable even if we try to limit our participation in the fast-moving, click-bait media cycle. I’m not saying this in a mainstream-media-is-turning-everyone-into-communists kind of way. I’m saying this in a seriously-everything-is-shit-all-the-time kind of way.

Whether you’re reading Twitter (reactionary), Instagram (performative), Facebook (scary), the New York Times (incendiary — have you seen their Op-Eds?), or just listening to the words of that friend or family member you’ve tolerated despite their fear-mongering sentiments, life in the present is filled with a constant influx of harrowing news.

The planet is dying a rapid death and our finitude can feel like the barrier to change. What can I, one of billions in the world, one of millions in South Carolina, one of thousands in Charleston, actually do? Hasn’t all that can be done been done by now?

When we care about the planet, its intricate ecosystems, its diverse people, its movement and personality and spirit, grief is natural. The earth is experiencing loss. We’re experiencing loss. We’re anticipating loss, mourning for the present and the future of Earth.

Grief, though, is productive — and not in the capitalist sense. When my grandmother died around Christmas in 2020, I thought I would never know happiness again. She was my mentor, inspiration, and lifeline. I never thought I would lose her, and then she took her last breath. In the months that followed, grief took me in waves. I never wanted to feel it, especially when tears escaped my eyes without permission.

Months later, I thought that I shouldn’t be sad anymore. A year after her death, I still found myself sobbing. Even now, I sleep with her old quilt every night and write letters to her in a journal.

Processing grief is a continual practice. Our grief for the world will never go away, but that’s our power. Acknowledging and understanding our grief for the world can lead to clarity and action. We can grieve what’s lost and protect what we have yet to lose. In many ways, our anguish is our power to move forward and seek a just future for all beings.