I met Sandra during Bri's Manifestation Challenge. What I love about this particular group is the ongoing support and ever-expanding community of women who are learning to believe in themselves and live creatively. As I have changed my mind about what I am choosing to believe, these ladies have digitally journeyed with me, reminding me who I am on those days it's tough to remember.
Sandra is a clinical therapist and specializes in working with clients who struggle with trauma, anxiety/mood disorders, and substance use. She is "a woman who wants to cheer for everyone who's ever felt misunderstood, unloved or invisible." Similarly, with different callings, we both just really want you to be yourself.
Sandra recently experienced a personal loss, and in allowing herself to truly commune with her grief - to recognize and embrace it - she discovered that recovery has the ability to open you to a deeper sense of spiritual connection.
Responses by Sandra Labo
What do you believe, and why?
I believe in human energy, and that it is not constrained to our bodies. I believe that when our bodies die, our energy is so powerful that we continue to exist in spirit form. I believe I am surrounded by the energies of those that have died. I've believed this since I was a child. It never scares me, but it can be overwhelming to be in places where spiritual energy is strong.
How did you discover your beliefs?
I have not identified as a Christian for some time. I was brought up to believe in God but always knew religion didn't fit me. I was expected to make my first communion and I did, but afterward, when my parents asked me if I wanted to continue my Saturday studies at the church, I said emphatically, no. We were not a religious family; we didn't attend services formally, except once in a great while. I was always uncomfortable in church, likely because I read and interpreted the bible stories as just that, stories.
I have been in a discovery process my entire life, but this year has been the most connected I have felt to the other side - the spiritual realm. My father died suddenly on December 9, 2015, and my world exploded. I was lost, anxious, depressed, and grieving with every cell in my body. I suffered from clinical depression, anxiety, and PTSD, and spent many months trying to recover.
As a writer and a therapist, I believe we create ideas and stories, dependent on our culture and upbringing, to explain how the world works and why the chips fall as they do. I respect this process, and cannot say that one version of God is better or more correct that the other. My spirituality has shown me that kindness, light, peace, and goodness - all tenants of Christianity - are part of something bigger that every human can identify with. That is what I am after for myself now, and in my grief. I have found a deep connection, in the form of meditation and spiritual rituals - as conduits - to a direct source of love. I used to think I was crazy when I heard or knew things intuitively growing up, but it's why I believe in ghosts, spirits, reincarnation, and the power of intention and positivity. Recently, I connected with my Dad on a spiritual level and he has been guiding my new path to this direct source. I was able to share space with his spirit and felt hugged by him. It was as if he were physically here with me. It was intensely comforting, a great relief to my pain, and an enormous support to my goals and ideas.
How do you interact with your beliefs?
I have a regular practice of meditation using tarot, oracle, stonework and prayer, with incense and candles, while connecting with my center. I'm learning to be confident in my pagan skin. I focus on surrounding myself with people who share and support my beliefs and recently had an opportunity to join a group ritual. The power of the group was grounding and healing.
What do you do when you doubt your beliefs?
It's been a year since my father passed. This season has been tough, and actually worse in some ways because when my Dad died I was instantly numb. I viewed everything through a fog of grief. I knew exactly what was happening, but I couldn't control my reaction to it. Such is the process of grief - it takes you to the depths of your soul, and you become reborn in a way.
A week before Thanksgiving, I felt my grief crash hard into the forefront. Now, with the holiday season coming to a close, I'm slowly feeling better. I know next year will be better, there will be more joy, but there will also always be a deep sense of loss around this time. I miss my Dad so, but I am blessed with a network of family, friends, and colleagues that allow me to process my grief, sometimes by crying in their ear. As a therapist, I know the value of someone being in it with you, and I'm fortunate to have people who understand this.
This Christmas was a quiet one; I've needed much more solitude this year than is typical for me. This has upset some people, but I won't deny my needs in order to please others. If people don't understand grief, there's nothing I can do about it. Some days are better than others, but taking it one day at a time is the best I can do. I tell my clients the same thing. There's a lot of pressure to get "better", and that has different meanings for people. Grief is controversial and many choose to block out feeling it, which really makes everything worse in the long run. You can't run from it so why not embrace it. As with discovery, recovery is a process that needs to be honored and felt.
When grief overwhelms, those are probably the days I experience doubt. But I generally do not have doubts about my spiritual beliefs and practices. Besides, my Dad is still here to help, support, and encourage me.
To read more My Discovery Process submissions, you can find them here.