Completely impractical ways to change the world: grieve

Hilary Blake continues her summer series on completely impractical ways to change the world. Because there are so many good people and organisations talking about practical solutions to the world’s problems. Just for a change, let’s give ourselves permission to think smaller, simpler, and less practically.


If we don’t grieve what we’ve lost, we can get stuck, but it can be hard to know how to grieve, both publicly and privately.

I’ve done some reading about grieving recently, following a bereavement. I was so glad to find a name for something that I knew existed but didn’t know how to name: ‘anticipatory grieving’.

Anticipatory grieving is a real thing, both as we anticipate the death of someone we love and in thinking about the loss of the future we’d hoped for for the planet.

One morning my son was drawing in crayon on a big roll of paper, drawing a map. It went wrong, and he cried and wailed. I tried to make it better. Could we turn that thing that was meant to be a road into a river? Could we colour over it?

“No. It’s all gone wrong and I can’t fix it!” he shouted through his tears. I stopped coming up with helpful suggestions and gave him a cuddle. I thought about hearing news stories about climate change and crying to myself, “It’s all gone wrong and I can’t fix it.”

We left the drawing. He was right, it would have looked rubbish as a river. A few minutes later, he decided to plant some seeds with his dad.

Some things we can’t fix, but we can still do something different that is worth doing. I think we’re more likely to get on with the things that are worth doing if we’ve let ourselves grieve what has gone wrong. Maybe one day we’ll go back to the drawing and find a way of making it beautiful, even though it’s not how we originally planned.

Try to allow yourself to grieve, and allow others to grieve. And be aware that despair, denial and depression are all part of grieving, but for most people they pass if we allow them to happen, and we emerge changed and stronger, and ready to live.

How does this fit with the Joy bit of Joy in Enough, you may wonder. But joy isn’t happiness or optimism. It’s deeper than that. Counter-intuitively, it can come through grief.

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