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Step away, unplug, don't be 'a pawn in this disease’s game,' says grief counsellor

In turbulent times like these, there are five stages of grief: Shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance
Cynthia Breadner, grief support and counsellor with #griefcafeBradford. Natasha Philpott/Bradford Today

Cynthia Breadner used to work at David’s Tea, as assistant store manager.

The most frequently asked question she heard from customers was: “Do you have a tea for stress?”

Her answer: “Any of them. Have a cup of tea, sit down, and see where the stressors are and how you deal with them.”

It’s a philosophy and an approach that she has applied to her own life, especially since she lost her job due to COVID-19 business closures.

Her first idea was to apply for Employment Insurance (EI), but then Breadner thought: “Every person, every neighbour is going to be applying for EI, because every person is affected.”

Not only that, but EI would provide only 65 per cent of her salary.

“(For) the majority of people, that’s not even going to pay the rent,” she said, herself included.  

Like so many, “I am hand-to-mouth,” Breadner added.

Instead, she started looking for alternatives and ways to redirect her energy, ways to serve.

She was able to find alternative employment at a Bradford retirement residence.

Breadner might be considered especially equipped to be flexible and to be able to handle the stress of job loss. She has a master's degree in spirituality and an degree in gerontology and religious studies. She also provides grief support and counselling, as the founder of #GriefCafeBradford.

She understands that there is grief, not only from the daily news, and the onslaught of information regarding the impact of the novel coronavirus around the world, but from personal impact of the pandemic, as businesses close their doors.

Right now, most immediately, the reaction is “shock, awe and denial,” she said, the first stage of grief, as identified by Swiss-born psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, founder of the hospice movement.

According to Kübler-Ross, there are five stages of grief. After shock and denial come anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

“As people of the world we are all in the shock, awe and denial stage,” Breadner said. “Because of the internet, we are forced to go through this as a world… When something happens in Australia, we are there."

She added: “It is hard. One hundred years ago, you only knew what was happening in the community.”

Breadner’s philosophy and advice is reflected in her own experience: look for options. Be aware, not only of the losses – the shut downs, the closures, the self-isolation and social distancing – but the opportunities to find new outlets, awaken curiosity, and learn new things.

There are job opportunities even now, within essential businesses; some distribution networks and grocery stores are still hiring, cleaning staff and support workers are needed. There are opportunities to serve the community.

There are also opportunities for self-awareness and self-development.

In isolation, “many people are going stir crazy because they don’t know how to be in a room with themselves,” Breadner said.

The first step is to realize, “Community starts within me, myself and I… We start in our own heart.”

She urged, “Step away from technology. Unplug. Take a book and turn a page.”

Have a cup of tea, sit down, and look at the stressors and how to deal with them.

“A good question is, how can I serve?” Breadner said. “It gives you perspective.”

Because we are more, she said, than “a pawn in this disease’s game.”


Miriam King

About the Author: Miriam King

Miriam King is a journalist and photographer with Bradford Today, covering news and events in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil.
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