My necklace is the first thing Theresa Caputo points out.
We just hopped on Zoom for a virtual interview when she pauses. Your necklace, she says, it's your dad's handwriting, isn't it?
Most don't notice the ever-present accessory. On a quick glance, the loopy writing—spelling out "Love You Always"—could be my name or a kitchy mantra I live by. But Theresa is right: The words were traced from a card my dad had written years earlier and given to me as a gift after he passed away in March 2019.
But it isn't just the Long Island Medium star's eagle eyes that draw her to my neck. It is her talent, her ability to know that my dad was physically gone, but still here. It's something she reminds me of later in our interview. "Several times I've seen your dad lean over and kiss you on the cheek," she tells me. "You have this bond with your dad that is unbreakable. That real daddy's little girl, that bond will never, ever be broken."
If you're skeptical, dear reader, I totally understand you. When I first met Theresa during a 2017 group reading, she looked me square in the eyes and said, "Coins." I shrugged her off, told her I had no idea what she was talking about and, if I'm being honest, most likely rolled my eyes. Only later did I learn that my PopPop, my mom's father died when I was in middle school, had an extensive coin collection.
So, maybe the shocking, indescribable loss of my dad opened my eyes and turned me into a believer—or maybe it's the comfort Theresa has given me by telling me his spirit lives on somewhere in the unknown. And let's be real, it's a comfort we could all use as 2020 continues to test us in every way possible.
Because, as many of us have learned in this soul-crusher of a year, grief isn't limited to the loss of life. You can mourn the loss of your job, of your home, of your will to endure the seemingly never-ending parade of challenges, of the reality you once knew—all topics that Theresa so deftly explores in her new book, Good Mourning.
"We mourn and grieve on a daily basis," she says, "But I don't think we realize it." Which sounds like a good thing, a necessary coping mechanism, expect by burying all that pain and sorrow, she says, we're just avoiding the inevitable. "We have to recognize these challenges and these losses so we can continue to grow," she explains. "Sometimes, we have to hit rock bottom, in a sense. It's uncomfortable but you know what? When we're uncomfortable, we change."
It's especially true now as we look to find our new normal amid the global spread of coronavirus. "Everyone is going to have a different emotion of what they went through with this pandemic, what they've lost, what they feel, what they think they should have achieved," Theresa says. "But the main thing is be kind to yourself, know that things are going to get better."
Seriously, promise. Take it from a medium.
Because tomorrow—and, hopefully 2021—will bring something new. "Spirit always reinforces to me to remain hopeful and always have faith," she admits. "And when those days became tough, I allow myself to have bad moments. I give myself a bit of time: You're allowed to feel sad or sorry for yourself for an hour, but then after that, you get yourself together and you move on."
She's also the type to seek out that silver lining. Though the pandemic halted her tour, it has brought her kids Larry and Victoria—and Victoria's fiancé Michael—back home. And, she's refused to let a shutdown slow her pace. Theresa has continued to film TLC's Long Island Medium, albeit virtually—"Pandemic or no pandemic, spirit is still pushing me to deliver healing messages"—and will soon launch her new podcast, HEY SPIRIT!, on October 15.
"We have a bit more conversation and people will talk about their spiritual experiences," she teases. "It's different when you can't see someone's reaction. You're really feeling the emotion. People will have a better understanding of what it's like for me when I feel Spirit."
Regardless of how she gives a reading, there's one message that always comes through the loudest, and it's a good one: Your loved one is OK, they are no longer in pain. Though COVID blocked many from having the chance to say goodbye and celebrate the lives of those who have died, "know their souls are at peace," Theresa insists. "The physical body is really for us. That is something Spirit has always stressed to me: Their souls are at peace."
As mourners, however, our minds can't always say the same. After a devastating loss, you ask yourself what you could have changed, what you could have done better to save them. The what ifs sneak up on you long after the end.
But lingering on those questions, those guilt bombs mean you can't truly move forward. "We made all the right choices and decisions with what we had at the time," Theresa says, putting death into perspective. "A lot of times Spirit will say, 'I would not have had a quality of life. I would not have wanted you to watch me suffer.' Put yourself emotionally back in that space and say, 'This was the best decision at that time with what we were given.'"
I could talk to her for hours, picking her brain about death, grief, the afterlife: How is my dad? Has he been witness to all of life's milestones? Is he proud? I think anyone who has experienced a loss—in any way, shape or form—would beg for an opportunity to sit down with her. Not just because she's a medium, but because her compassion is contagious. The sense of relief, of understanding she provides leaves you with an overwhelming sense of hope.
Her parting words speak volumes: "I want people to take away from this that you're not alone. Everything that you feel when you grieve, when you mourn, we're all going through it. Know your loved ones are still loving, guiding and protecting you. There is no such thing as a coincidence."
After all, our conversation took place a year and a half to the day of when I said goodbye to my dad. A day that, a year ago, I found myself crying through from start to finish. On this day, though? I was floating on cloud nine.