HYANNIS, Mass. — Intense longing for her daughter led Nancy Bradford, of Harwich, to a medium.
Lauren Bradford was 18 when she died of a heroin overdose in 2010.
“I was so embarrassed and confused,” Bradford said. “And I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to believe. But when I went home, I kept thinking ‘How could she know that?'”
Since then, Bradford has found comfort and a connection with her daughter by visiting several mediums.
She is not alone. Grieving parents and other relatives reeling from the loss of young lives during one of the worst drug epidemics in American history are finding solace in mediums.
“It’s the peace, it’s the knowing they are still there,” said Janet Uhlar, of Eastham, who lost her son, Josiah Tinney, 26, to an overdose in 2014, as well as her son, David, in 2001, to suicide. “I can’t see them. I can’t touch them. But I know they are there. It brings you joy.”
The Open Doorway of Cape Cod, a nonprofit advocacy group that helps people with addiction find treatment on the Outer Cape, is offering a weeklong cruise in January for grieving families — and bringing along four mediums. The “Fun Raiser” for the group includes the cruise from Miami to Cozumel on Carnival Cruise Line’s ship Glory. The mediums are donating their time to offer workshops and provide opportunities to connect with loved ones.
If this all sounds a little weird, the organizers of the trip understand. At one point, they felt the same way.
“I was grieving the death of my brother David and I was having a hard time,” said Rachel Tinney, of Eastham, Uhlar’s daughter and co-founder of the Open Doorway of Cape Cod.
Though she never expected any relief or comfort from it, she eventually saw a medium herself.
“I didn’t give that woman anything,” Tinney said. “I didn’t tell her a thing. But she told me things there was no way she could have known.”
Skepticism is an important instinct when paying someone to contact the dead. Yarmouth Deputy Police Chief Steven Xiarhos, whose 21-year-old son, Nicholas, died in combat in Afghanistan in 2009, tried a medium once after his son’s passing, he said. He found the person’s information was “not accurate.”
A woman wrote him letters when his grieving was new and fresh. She urged him to come to her for a reading. Xiarhos said he found her to be “untrustworthy.”
“I’m not totally against it,” he added. “But for me the best help is professional help. I saw a counselor.”
The Rev. Kathleen Hoffman, of the First Spiritualist Church of Onset, says mediums trained in proper settings, such as in spiritualist churches, learn ethics, including no soliciting of clients and no unrequested readings. And, for example, they are taught it’s not OK to tell someone they are going to get a serious illness.
“We believe thoughts manifest,” said Hoffman, adding that expectation could create the condition.
For spiritualists, communicating with spirits, or “those who have passed,” is a part of their religion, she said.
“Spiritualists believe in the continuity of life,” Hoffman said. “There is not death and there is no dying.”
There’s an added reason that Hoffman and Patricia Mellman, a medium from Falmouth who will join Hoffman on the cruise, have compassion for the grieving families on the cruise.
Both women lost sons to heroin.
Mellman’s son, Sean Stigberg-Mellman, succumbed to an overdose in 2014 at 19.
Hoffman’s son, Benjamin Hoffman, died the same way in 2015. He was 27.
“Even though you’re a medium, you still miss them and it’s still hard to believe they are gone. You miss that physical presence,” Hoffman said.
Mellman happened to be the first medium Nancy Bradford consulted in 2010 when she wanted to contact Lauren.
“It took me 45 minutes to get her daughter,” Mellman said. “There were so many other people coming through. And I was so overwhelmed for her.”
Mellman said she had no idea then that her son, just 15 when Lauren died, would be gone four years later.
Faith that death isn’t a dark hole, however, brings comfort, Mellman said.
“It’s just knowing they are OK,” Mellman said.
For the mediums on the cruise, communicating with spirits brings healing because the deceased only want the best for their living relatives, Hoffman said.
“The dead really want to love you,” Mellman said. “They want to surround you with love, that’s their big thing.”
Information from: Cape Cod (Mass.) Times, http://www.capecodtimes.com