Anthropogenic climate change is causing widespread losses and damages to what people value. To date, non-economic loss and damage assessments are commonly guided by predefined ‘types’ of non-economic losses, similar to those proposed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Instead, we draw from studies conducted in Bangladesh and Fiji to emphasize the benefits of a values-based assessment approach to gain a context-sensitive understanding of people’s lived experiences of loss and damage. This approach reveals three key findings. The first is that centring local values in loss and damage assessments ensures that people’s experiences and perspectives are recognized and valued. Second, such an approach reveals how climate change impacts, including what’s tolerable and intolerable, affects people in different ways. The most intolerable impacts in Bangladesh relate to development and nature, which are deeply intertwined with other values. Intolerable impacts in Fiji include the loss of burial grounds and foundation stones, which provide a connection to ancestors and loved ones. And finally, we show how a values-based approach unifies often dichotomized economic and non-economic loss and damage, providing a holistic overview of climate-related impacts so that decisionmakers can more mindfully engage with people’s everyday lives.