With the pandemic closing churches and limiting funerals, many are now turning to mediums to make sense of their grief in isolation. SALLY WILLIAMS meets… The midlife women using psychics to help them say goodbye
- Many women are turning to the help of psychics to help them with sudden loss
- Kate, 52, a teacher from Dundee lost her husband Jim to coronavirus last April
- She now sees her psychic June Field for sessions over Zoom and says it helps
Last April, 60-year-old Jim, a businessman, came home to his wife Kate saying he didn’t feel well. His body ached and his head pounded.
Over the next few days his condition worsened. On the fourth day, Kate called the ambulance to their London home. ‘It all went downhill incredibly quickly as soon as he got to hospital,’ says Kate, a 52-year-old teacher.
He was intubated (a tube was threaded down his throat allowing him to be connected to a ventilator) and sedated. Four days later, Kate fell ill with Covid herself and was admitted to the same hospital. She was on a Covid ward; Jim was in the intensive care unit.
‘One of the nurses said I could go and visit him — and that was quite shocking as obviously he didn’t look anything like my husband, being on the ventilator.’
Because she was in hospital, she was allowed to be by Jim’s side when he died two days later.
When she returned home, emotionally raw and physically weak, she couldn’t take comfort from the presence of friends because she was possibly still infectious. ‘It was hard to hear everybody else’s heart breaking over the phone,’ she says. ‘Some friends would come and stand at the window.
Many women are turning to the help of psychics to help them with sudden loss during the pandemic (file image)
‘I kept thinking my husband must have been so scared,’ she says.
At the end of June, a friend suggested that she see a medium. Pragmatic and down-to-earth, Kate had never been to a medium before, only a clairvoyant for fun in her 20s.
‘My sister is very anti it and couldn’t believe I was considering it,’ recalls Kate. ‘I thought it can’t make me feel any worse than I feel already.
‘People might criticise, but it made me feel better and gave me comfort.
‘There’s a big difference between a gifted medium and a fake, who takes advantage of people.’
Kate chose June Field, a well-regarded medium based in Dundee, who has been seeing clients virtually during lockdown.
‘Was he frightened?’ Kate asked during her Zoom reading a few weeks later. ‘Yes, he was frightened,’ she replied. ‘Very frightened. But he’s not frightened now; he’s at peace.’
‘I was so relieved,’ says Kate.
A month later, Kate asked if she could have another reading.
‘June could easily have taken the money but she said: ‘No, it’s early days, give yourself time to heal. I do not offer readings so close together as I feel it’s important to get on with a physical life.’
Sue Carrol, (pictured) 58, a medium based in Leeds, says she’s helped more than 250 people contact their loved ones since the pandemic began
There are no officially recorded figures but mediums report an increased demand from people wanting to contact loved ones lost to the coronavirus.
Perhaps it’s not so surprising. The idea that the living could commune with the dead became popular a century ago when Britain was dealing with the huge loses on the battle fields of the World War I.
Now, once again, a traumatised nation is trying to make sense of so many sudden deaths, this time from a disease that didn’t even exist 18 months ago. And many are finding solace not in science or logic but in the realm of the supernatural.
The way people have died during the pandemic is only adding to the trauma of the bereaved.
Stringent regulations introduced at the start of the pandemic have meant many have died with no family or friends beside them because of concern about the spread of the virus. (This rule has now been relaxed, with each hospital trust and care home assessing the level of risk, but PPE still restricts the level of contact.)
It’s a different loss than when you’re able to sit with someone, comfort them and kiss them goodbye, says Louise Tyler, accredited counsellor with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
‘If you’re not able to be with someone when they die, it can lead to a sense of unreality. Grief can be suspended, because they haven’t had that natural process of watching someone pass away.
‘Places of worship are closed and mourning rituals have been cut back to a minimum, and that is interrupting the grieving process,’ says Louise.
What’s more, grief for loved ones lost to Covid is both private and very public. ‘People are going through it and reading about it, too. It’s quite unusual to be going through something and to be seeing it on the news. It’s very depersonalising.
‘And, of course, people would normally come and visit you, bring food and hold your hand. None of this is happening.’
While Louise doesn’t believe you can communicate with the dead, she says she does understand the spiritual side of it.
June Field, (pictured) is a well-regarded medium based in Dundee and has been seeing clients virtually during lockdown
‘Perhaps mediums are like bereavement counsellors, in that they’re providing comfort,’ she says.
Kate’s medium, June Field, says she first became aware of spirits when she was four or five. ‘Every night there would be people watching me, just looking at me. It upset me a bit, because I didn’t know who they were, but I got used to it.’
Now aged 61, she normally has a long waiting list for face-to-face readings but, since the virus hit, she has done more readings online.
‘Around 50 per cent of readings are still to do with the future — jobs, business, relationships, what’s going to happen,’ she says. ‘The others are with people wanting to connect with those who’ve passed, especially at this time of Covid.’
Doing a reading on Zoom or the phone is no different from face-to-face, she explains. ‘It’s the vibration or energy of the sitter I connect with.’
A reading takes 50-60 minutes and costs from around £140.
‘Once I’m connected,’ says June, ‘I start to become aware of what’s around them.’ She talks of spirits in terms of signals.
‘Think of me like a mobile phone,’ she says. ‘Sometimes I’ll see them as clear as you, sometimes they’re just head and shoulders, sometimes they’re a bit faded. It depends what signal they are.’
Afterwards she feels very drained. ‘It’s a bit like the feeling you get if you’ve been driving too long and you lose focus.’
Lynsey Chambers, 42, an apprentice training manager and married mother-of-two, from Glasgow, turned to June when she lost her father, father-in-law and mother-in-law to Covid, all within 12 days of each other. Two months later, her mother has died, too, from a heart attack.
Lynsey was especially close to her father. Larger than life, he looked after Lynsey’s ten-year-old daughter after school and sat with her as she did her homework.
He was 66 years old and fit, apart from asthma. ‘He walked the West Highland Way God knows how many times,’ says Lynsey. ‘Dad dying seemed most unlikely.
On March 13, he called to say he felt unwell. The next day he was admitted to hospital and was given oxygen, steroids, antibiotics and a Covid test.
Lynsey was in the supermarket getting things for her daughter’s packed lunch when her dad called. ‘I’ve got Covid,’ he told her.
‘Although my dad was a big strapping guy, he was quite a softie and was terrified. He needed somebody there to support him, comfort him.’
Lynsey and her younger sister set up a WhatsApp group so their father could keep in touch. Then, one day, he went quiet.
‘Dad, what’s happening?’ they messaged him. ‘What’s going on?’
She phoned the hospital and was told their father was sedated and on a ventilator in intensive care.
The family recorded an audio message which the nurses played on an iPad held close to her father, who lay unconscious, attached to machines and tubes. ‘We were talking to him, singing and the Rolling Stones were playing in the background.’ (Her dad had followed the band around the world.)
On March 26, her sister called to report there was nothing more the hospital could do and one person was allowed to be with their father. ‘She felt it should be me.’
Lynsey got to the intensive care unit at around 4.30 pm. Her father died two hours later.
Three weeks after the death of her father, Bill Webster, Hilary, (pictured) 49, a nurse from Perth, can look back on his dedication to the principle of spiritualism with fresh appreciation
‘I didn’t realise I’d actually have to say the words, ‘Turn off the machine’ — that was a bit of a shock. But it was good I was with him because his big fear was dying alone.’
More tragedy followed. Lynsey’s mother-in-law died from Covid at home on March 30; her father-in-law, sick with grief and Covid, died on April 7. Her mum died on June 3.
Lynsey felt heartbroken; undone by so much loss. She’d turn up at work most days with a face bright red from crying in the car. ‘That’s when I’d do my grieving.’ Music triggered memories. She still can’t listen to the Rolling Stones.
Then one evening, last summer, she saw a medium on TV offering the chance to connect with the dead. It made Lynsey sit up.
In November, Lynsey, her partner Andy and Lynsey’s sister were sitting in front of a laptop in their dining room waiting for something to happen. June appeared and they started chatting.
This is when June is plugging into the energy of her sitters. ‘I’m already making connections,’ she explains. ‘They just don’t know it.’
‘Oh, you’re the strong one of the family,’ she said to Lynsey. Everyone laughed in recognition.
Then June said: ‘I’ve got a man here who’s really loud and thinks he’s great at one-liners. ‘That’s my dad!’ Lynsey shouted back.
June knows that what sitters want isn’t generalisations but ‘evidence’ — details that bring their loved ones to life.
‘Who’s got elephant ornaments in the house?’ June asked. ‘I do!’ Lynsey replied. Her daughter had bought them years ago as a present for mother’s day.
‘He says they’ve been moved,’ June reported. ‘Oh my God!’ thought Lynsey, ‘he’s right.’ The elephants had been next to a photo of her father, but she’d moved them that weekend.
‘Towards the end of the reading, June asked if there were any questions. ‘Did I do the right thing?’ asked Lynsey. ‘What do you mean?’ June replied.
Lynsey explained that she’d had to give permission to switch off her father’s ventilator.
‘You definitely did the right thing,’ June said. ‘He thanks you for what you did. He could see you when you were holding his hand. He tried to come to you and a woman held him back.’
‘Who was that?’ I ask Lynsey.
‘Likely his mum,’ she tells me. ‘That was so good to hear because my dad was a total mummy’s boy. I had such a sense of relief knowing he’d found her on the other side.’
What did the reading give you? I ask. ‘Comfort,’ she replies.
Sue Carrol, 58, a medium based in Leeds, says she’s helped more than 250 people contact their loved ones since the pandemic began. She charges £30 for a reading that lasts 45-60 minutes.
‘Covid is often a really sudden and difficult separation,’ she says. ‘Your loved one is taken into hospital, you’re not allowed in, you can’t talk to them and then they pass away.
‘One of the things people are working through is: how did they feel about me not being there? They’re looking for their loved ones to say, I’m OK, it didn’t matter, don’t beat yourself up.’ Certainly, there was nothing normal about the death of Lynsey’s father. She could kiss his face but only through a paper mask. She couldn’t see his body after he died, or dress him in his own clothes because of the risk of contamination. ‘He had to have a shroud draped over him — and my dad was so vain!’
And on the day of her father’s funeral, they were allowed only ten mourners. ‘Dad always said when I die, I want a massive wake, a big party and a free bar. And we weren’t able to give him that.’
Three weeks after the death of her father, Bill Webster, Hilary, 49, a nurse from Perth, can look back on his dedication to the principle of spiritualism with fresh appreciation.
A member of the Perth Spiritualist Church, Bill was diagnosed with terminal kidney disease two years ago, at the age of 81. His wife and a team of carers looked after him at home.
On January 6, his temperature soared and he went off his food. He died later that day. A subsequent Covid test was positive. Hilary had looked after her father on that last day.
The night he died, Hilary texted a childhood friend, who had moved to Australia, to tell her the news.
‘I knew she had mediumship skills,’ says Hilary.
‘He’s still around you,’ the friend texted back. ‘Omg, are you hearing him?’ Hilary replied.
‘Yes. He said there are lots of beings to welcome him. Relatives, old workmates and even angels were there. Archangel Michael: he is stressing me to tell you that.’
That sealed it for Hilary. ‘There was no doubt it was my dad. It was me who told him Archangel Michael would guide his soul home.’
Five days later, Hilary was diagnosed with Covid and went into isolation at her parents house, as she’d been looking after her mum. She shut herself in the room her father had died in.
‘Mum would leave meals outside the door. I didn’t leave the room for ten days. There’s no way I could have handled that situation, in that bedroom, had I not got those messages from my father.
‘I felt strong. Protected. I knew that he was just a whisper away.’
- Some names in this article have been changed.
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