Loss is part of the human experience. Learning to grieve is an important part of spiritual growth.
Every morning, I begin my day in meditation. In the quiet of the morning, I sit and draw attention to my breath. I give thanks for the day and the gift of breath.
Then, I welcome what is present in my body and spirit—both physically and emotionally.
Throughout this pandemic, there have been long stretches where all I feel in that time is grief. Grief that feels like it can expand to fill the whole room. I remain present to it, breathing with and through it. So much has been lost during this pandemic. And the losses and tragedies continue. Yet I remember something eco-philosopher Joanna Macy, author of Active Hope, teaches, that being able to experience anguish and grief in response to the pain of our world is crucial to staying connected and engaged in life.
Loss is part of the human experience. Learning to grieve is an important part of spiritual growth. Grief can feel overwhelming. There is a fear that by giving into it, we may be lost to despair. And so many of us have become experts at compartmentalizing pain at the tragedies of our world—simply so we can get through our days.
Climate change, to which this pandemic is not unrelated, is a source of profound loss. It creates collective trauma for us as a people and a planet. And we know there is more yet to come. Those who care about humanity’s future feel anger at those who scoff at the dangers, continue to deny the problem, and make selfish choices that worsen the crisis. Yet accepting doom as “inevitable” is a barrier to effective organizing.
Macy speaks eloquently of our need to move beyond “climate dread”: “Like living cells in a larger body, it is natural that we feel the trauma of our world. So don’t be afraid of the anguish you feel, or the anger or fear, because these responses arise from the depth of your caring and the truth of your interconnectedness with all beings.”
It is this caring that inspires us to engage the battles, big and small, global and local, for our future. We can’t do it all. It’s important to remember this. But there is work right before us that we can impact.
Accepting doom as “inevitable” is a barrier to effective organizing.
This issue of UU World addresses the daunting challenges our world faces because of climate change in particular. It demonstrates the ways UUs are showing up to create climate justice and demand climate action. May we remember that connecting to our grief doesn’t have to be a path to despair. When we pay attention to our emotional realities in ways that remind us of our connections to each other and our planet, they can be an inspiration for sustained action in the world that is oriented toward hope.
The Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray, President
For more information about Joanna Macy’s work: “The Spiral of the Work that Reconnects” workthatreconnects.org/spiral