Gelderman intimately understands the activist’s struggle, having cofounded Climate Justice Edmonton in 2018. But her dedication to the environment led to what she describes as an intense period of climate despair, burnout, anxiety and depression.
“We came up against dead end after dead end,” she says. “I got to a point where I just lost a lot of faith, I think, in our ability to make the kind of change I initially thought was possible.”
She was left with a burning question: How does one move forward when the future, in so many ways, feels lost?
Gelderman found the answer in nature. Working as a seasonal interpreter in Northern Alberta’s Cold Lake Provincial Park, away from her peers and the city noise, gave her the space to work through her own climate grief.
“The reason I was actually able to feel some of those deeper emotions was because I felt really held and supported by the literal land I was living on,” she says.
This connection helped Gelderman understand the limitations of political and scientific models for understanding the world. Searching for something deeper, her grieving process became a spiritual crisis, ultimately leading to a place of faith. Gelderman got a Master of Theological Studies degree and studied Clinical Pastoral Education, devoting herself to counselling in the principles of collective liberation and the “contemplative Christian tradition.”
She is now a hospital chaplain by day, where she works with families and palliative-care patients grieving some of the most intense and painful experiences they will ever face.