Five seasons into her hit show
– and after countless conversations with the departed – Long Island Medium's Theresa Caputo
says her life isn't all that different than it used to be. With one notable exception.
"How long does food shopping take you, 45 minutes? I'm three hours," she tells PEOPLE with a laugh. But grocery runs are filled with encounters with friendly live fans, she says, not ghosts.
"You can't just walk up to me and be like, Okay, what are you getting? It doesn't work like that," she says. So how does
"It's usually when I'm talking to someone for a while. I'm in their presence and I'll just all of a sudden start sensing and feeling things." These things – messages from the dead to the living – can be "completely mind-blowing," she adds. "It even freaks me
out. People always say, 'Why do you always look surprised?' It amazes me."
To mark the mid-season premiere of TLC's Long Island Medium
Season 5 (airing Sunday, 9 p.m. ET), here are five things to know about how Caputo talks to the dead. And be sure to watch an exclusive clip from the season premiere above.
1. Your dead relatives aren't hanging around with her
In her work as a medium, Caputo is able to communicate with people who have passed away, and relay messages to the living. So how is it that the dead always seem to know when Caputo's around? "Your loved ones are with you
," she tells PEOPLE. "It's not like they're hanging out with me going, 'Okay, I want you to run into my granddaughter. She's in aisle three, picking out cereal.'
"It was at a reading many years ago that it really clicked for me. I was reading a woman had lost her son and he said, 'Can you tell my mom to stop going to the cemetery? She's not the mailman. Through rain, snow, sleet and hail, my mother's at the ceremony every day.' And the woman looked at me and said, 'I go every day for an hour. Whether it's pouring rain, I stand by my son's grave.' "
2. Deceased loved ones may visit you in your dreams
Many people have cognitive dreams in which they wake up and recall seeing a lost loved one alive and well – and Caputo believes that's the deceased person's soul reconnecting with the living. "Some people will have a dream that doesn't make any sense at all, but you remember seeing your loved one standing there, perfectly healthy, happy, they're at peace and not sick anymore," she says.
"Other people have the amazing experience of an embrace from a loved one's soul. They will actually feel like they spent time with the person. That's a visitation. Sometimes they'll even show people glimpses of heaven."
3. Children can more easily connect with spirit than adults
"Young children, their minds aren't busy," says Caputo. "And it's the same thing when we sleep. People say, 'Why does my father only come to me in my sleep?' Well, because your mind is at rest. Children just say whatever they're sensing and feeling. We make excuses.
"When my nephew was 2, he saw a man standing in the pantry and he closed the door. He tells my brother, 'There's a man in the pantry.' And my brother calls me up and says, 'Jason is seeing dead people and it's all your fault,' and hung up on me," she says, laughing.
"I said, 'It's not my fault!' They showed my nephew a picture of three different men and he pointed to my sister-in-law's [late] father and said that was the man in the pantry. You can't even make that up."
4. She doesn't care if you're a skeptic
Caputo has never felt the need to defend her gift. "If someone has an experience and it changes their life in a positive way, what's wrong with that? Why do people always try to destroy something positive?" she says. As for her critics, "I don't focus on that at all. I can't tell people how to feel.
"I'm so blessed that I'm able to help so many people. My gift is so much more than me speaking to people that have died. It has restored people's faith, whether it be in a religion, faith in themselves or in their family. When my clients walk in, I can feel how broken they are. I just hope that everyone gets the experience of knowing that there is truly more to life than just here in the physical world."
5. You don't need a medium to connect
The signs of a late loved one's presence are everywhere, says Caputo – whether it's something you think you see, hear or even smell. And she hopes to help people see them without her.
"I want to educate my fans and my clients. I'm so proud of that. I tell all my clients, 'You don't have to go to a medium to connect with your loved ones.' I believe what I'm able to do is just to validate for you what you're sensing and feeling is real. And that you're not crazy."