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COLUMN: Choosing to live and learn in lockdown

Columnist Cynthia Breadner shares some of her favourite books on grief, and how to live your best life at any age
Duck woke first, very early in the morning. "I'm not dead" she thought to herself. "I'm not dead!" she quacked at Death. "I'm pleased for you!" Death said. "And if I'd died?" Duck said. "Then I wouldn't have been able to sleep in!" Death yawned. ... Duck thought that wasn't a very nice thing to say... Book: Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch

My mind is like a bad neighbourhood at times, that is why I try not to go in there alone! How often do you run from your thoughts? It seems like we have had such challenges over the last year, and yet, I believe the most prevalent occurrence, that is related to mental health, is the fact we have had the most time to be with our own thoughts! That can be scary for many people. The business of our pre-COVID lives, the old paradigm of living kept us very busy. Our computers were built to “multi-task” and most people had this ability somewhere on their resume. That said, what have you done to fill the time to help keep you from going stir crazy with thoughts, anxiousness or maybe even dwelling on regrets?

I have been reading as much as I can and watching Netflix. I have virtually travelled around the world and most recently I have been exploring the Great Castles of Britain and the history of these great buildings. The learning that is available to us via these virtual storytelling programs is astounding. I have learned to cook, learned to knit more ways, watched people push themselves beyond their limits in race and fitness challenges and I have fed my love of historical programming such as Murdoch Mysteries and I have watched Outlander so many times I have actually grown tired of it. So now I am beginning to turn back to reading and listening to books as I drive or as I work around the house. I have three books I thought I might focus on today for you to think about reading. All three are random choices off my bookshelf and may give you some new and adventurous ideas of how to fill your time with the ever-changing lockdown.  I know two are available at the local Bradford Library and the third can be purchased on Amazon if it is not available for borrowing. 

The first book is Finding Meaning: The sixth stage of grief

I have talked about this book in other columns.  Today I want to suggest you read it as we continue in this time of grieving and meltdowns.  This past weekend I presented two workshops at the Hospice Palliative Care Ontario virtual conference and there were 71 participants who signed up for my workshop “Is it okay to die laughing?” I was astounded at the interest.  When I asked why they came to my workshop when there were five others at the same time, they all said because we want to know how to die using humour or how to be more joy-filled. While dying is no laughing matter, setting up our lives with meaning and purpose can make dying of self and loved ones easier. This book is a beautiful learning of how to do that. How to find meaning and how to live with purpose to die fulfilled. 

The second book is Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit and Sexy—until you’re 80 and beyond

I loved this book.  I listened to it via the Libby app and borrowed it from the library.  It was fun and an energizing read.  Chris Crowley is funny and entertaining, and he makes sense. Dr. Henry Lodge M.D. offers a drier approach, however, no less intriguing as to how to age well. Ironically, he did not! While his philosophy is sound, he died at 58-years-old with prostate cancer, which begs us to live while we can and to the fullest. This fun book has been written for both male and female genders addressing anatomy and physical challenges. The bottom line is a fun, cattle prod approach that emphasizes “movement is the key” alongside a healthy attitude!

The third book is Save Your Brain: 5 things you must do to keep your mind young and sharp

Now, while this book has amazing ideas and is a great read, it is by no means an exhaustive collection of data. It provides easy-to-read ways to challenge yourself and shares how the brain actually works! It focuses on brain health overall and offers up the domains of health, one of which we have been stripped of during this pandemic: social interactions. It partners with YNY in thinking that physical exercise and fresh air are key components to good health and is simply a fun read to get you moving and thinking about your brain health. I worked with groups playing games and doing mind challenges and it was so much fun! Not only did we grow together in learning, but we also grew together in friendship after eight weeks in class at the local senior centre. I would offer Zoom mind classes if anyone is interested. The first challenge is for you to connect to Zoom!  You can do it! Then email me and the party will be started.

After three days of listening to ways of enhancing palliative care and my work in hospice care and death planning, some days I just want to live. The sweet book, Duck, Death and the Tulip referenced in the picture and the caption reminds us death has a job to do and until the time is right, death just lives its own life. If we concentrate on living instead of dying, like death we can sleep in, relax and enjoy. 

This morning I am heading out for some fresh air myself, to hear the birds and to feel the sun on my face and to smell spring in the air. The pandemic will only take us down if we let it. We have so many options and opportunities, we just need to choose to live. Ask any veteran, immigrant or someone who has survived a crisis, none of them sat at home and felt sorry for themselves. There is learning to be done and it starts with cracking a book!

Cynthia Breadner is a grief specialist and bereavement counsellor, a soul care worker and offers specialized care in Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy with special attention to trauma resolution.  She volunteers at hospice, works as a LTC chaplain and is a death doula, assisting with end-of-life care for client and family.  She is the mother part of the #DanCynAdventures duo and practices fitness, health and wellness.  She is available remotely by safe and secure video connections, if you have any questions contact her today!


Cynthia Breadner

About the Author: Cynthia Breadner

Writer Cynthia Breadner is a grief specialist and bereavement counsellor, a soul care worker providing one-on-one support at
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