I Went to a Viral TikTok Medium to Connect With My Dead Mother

Photo Illustration by Aly Lim

I’ve always been what some may call “woo-woo.” I’m a self-identified crystal girlie, another 20-something on her spiritual journey, and yes, if given the opportunity, I will take every tarot card reading ever presented to me. So, naturally, when my estranged mom passed away in early 2019, I started considering what some folks might consider an unconventional option: hiring a medium to connect with her in the afterlife.

For quite some time, however, I didn’t know where to look . . . until last year. I was scrolling through my For You page on TikTok, when I came across Amie Balesky, a spiritual medium who’s amassed a cool three million followers under her account, The Balesky. Known for connecting people with lost spirits and the dead, her bio reads, “Helping Spirits & People since 1995.”

Balesky’s page is full of clips from virtual readings with folks around the world. In them, she’s answering questions about the afterlife, offering helpful life advice, and of course, connecting lost loved ones with their living family and friends. I immediately reached out to Balesky’s team and booked a session six months out – which, for one of the top-rated mediums in the Northern hemisphere, is pretty standard.

When the day finally came, I was so excited. Nervous, too. This was my chance to connect with my mother: the woman who didn’t get to raise me, who left my life for 11 years, who missed out on so much in her own existence because of her long 32-year battle with methamphetamine addiction. It was my chance to say and hear all the things I never got to.

Before my hour-long session, I received instructions from Balesky: seek out a calm space for the session, spend the days before and after asking the spirit to come forward, and write down any questions you may want to ask.

It’s important to note that, before my session, the only thing Balesky had asked from me was the name of the person I was trying to reach. I didn’t share any identifying factors about my mother or myself; she didn’t know my age, my mom’s age, how she died, my story, or anything that could have led her to certain conclusions.

Before I knew it, it was my time. Upon joining the call, I’m greeted by Balesky, who emanates a positive energy and makes me smile. She doesn’t seem much different than the woman I had seen on TikTok, which is reassuring, and she sits in a witchy-looking room that feels oddly comforting: the walls are a dark shade of purple, lighting is low, and candles flicker on tables behind her.

Balesky explains how the process of channeling works for her. Spirits communicate through her, using her brain like a computer, and according to her, they can show her images, make her feel emotions, and even emit words or phrases to get messages across to the living. She also shows me a notebook, which she uses to scribble on, while she channels.

Then, the channeling begins.

“I see an image of you crying . . . maybe five years ago,” Balesky says. “Are you with someone now but you were with someone else five years ago?” Yes, I had been: five years ago, I was with my ex-husband, and moved to New York City, before meeting my current husband.

“There’s a few people here. You had a man come in for a second but he went away and now, there’s a woman. Oh, she keeps saying ‘mom,’ ‘mother,’ ‘mom.'” I smile, happy my mom decided to show up for me now, when I asked her.

My mom died of an overdose, but I hadn’t told Balesky that. “Did your mom die of . . . oh, she’s saying, ‘janky medication,'” Balesky says. Ah, yes, janky medication. Balesky gestures that my mom is shaking a pill bottle, and taking one, and then another, and then a third. “It’s not a good combination,” mom says. No shit, it’s not.

Balesky correctly notes that my mom and dad weren’t together when my mom passed. My parents had been in an on-again-off-again relationship for most of my life before ending things fully in 2004. They were extremely toxic to each other. “He’s a pain in my ass,” mom says. That makes me laugh because Balesky uses the exact tone my mother would have used. It makes the hair on my arm stand up.

“Your mom says,” Balesky smiles, “‘I am the one that made them meet.'” My mom is referring to my husband and me. It’s funny: my husband is definitely skeptical of the spiritual, but lately, he’s been saying that being with me makes him believe in magic. He often says that he thinks my mom sent him to me, even though she died before we got together. Whenever I do my spiritual routine, like tarot cards or meditation and journaling, he says he sees us talking.

Balesky adds, “She keeps saying ‘Rob’ or ‘Robby’ or ‘Robert.’ Do you know anyone by that name?” This is when I feel tears form. Robert was my mom’s ex-boyfriend, who left her because he got sober, and she didn’t. I met him for the first time at her funeral; he came up to me and introduced himself, and said that my mom never stopped loving me despite our estrangement.

“Oh, she also seems mad,” Balesky says. “She just said, ‘Robert’s probably screwing some other girl.’ Your mom seems to hate men. I like your mom, she’s funny.” OK, yeah, that’s also true. It makes me laugh out loud. I smile because it’s just so her.

“Was she cremated? She’s saying, ‘Don’t put me in the closet, put me out in the living room.’ She wants to be out with you,” Balesky says. My mom had indeed been cremated. When I first moved to New York City, I left her ashes in a closet at my dad’s house before bringing them home with me. They’ve been sitting in my apartment living room for four years.

“Are you writing a book?” Balesky asks. “She’s showing me you writing and putting pictures of her in the book. She says, ‘I don’t know why she’s using all those pictures.’ But she also likes it.” I am writing a book about her actually: a memoir on addiction, love, and how it can exist even in the most painful moments. I’m halfway through.

“She’s proud of you, she keeps showing me you getting measured for a pant suit – maybe it’s for the book launch or something,” Balesky says. “She’s also showing me you and her sitting together at a cafe table. She’s holding your hand. For me, that means she wants to be close.” I want to be close, too.

Balesky adds, “Oh, she just showed you coming home and putting the keys on the counter. ‘Hi baby,’ your mom says. She’s showing me you with a dog, a little wiry-haired dog with a squished face.” Hi baby: when I was little, my mom would greet me that way in the exact tone that Balesky just used. My heart feels like it could burst. Oh, and as for the dog, I’m getting a brussels griffon this summer.

“She just said, ‘I would use her when I could,’ like manipulate you to get what she wanted. Is that true?” Balesky asks. Yes, it’s why we were estranged, and why we couldn’t have a relationship that was healthy or good.

“Now, you should know I see her on top of you. Her spirit, I mean,” Balesky says. “She knows that now, she owes it to be with you and guide you, like she couldn’t when she was alive.” Maybe that’s why I feel her around all the time now. It seems like she’s always showing me herself somehow.

There’s so much more that’s said. The hour, which goes by in the blink of an eye, leaves me feeling tingly and emotional. I feel like a part of me is opened that I hadn’t seen or felt for years. I can hear and feel my mom around.

Balesky’s ability to channel feels brilliant and unprompted, like she knows things she could have never known unless my mom had really spoken through her. It feels undeniably real; I believe it is. It reminds me of the way some folks describe religion as a belief in something we cannot see, but we know is really there. I notice a lingering sensation after the session – like somehow my mom is hugging me from the beyond.

Before Balesky says goodbye, she smiles. In my mom’s voice, I hear her say, “I love you, I’m sorry.”

Related: The Healing Power of “Grief Runs”

Hayley Folk (she/her) is a freelance writer, editor, and podcast host based in New York City. She is the host of the “Naked Folk” podcast – a sexual wellness and relationships podcast – and she writes for major publications about the LGBTQ+ community, travel, lifestyle, sex, and wellness. In 2022, she received her master of fine arts in creative writing from The New School.

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