How To Be A Light Companion On A Dark Road

Helping someone through troubled times is a fine art and a gift.

I’ve done the cancer dance three times — not to mention going through two major surgeries to fix what went wrong after the last one. For someone who is fierce in her independence and hates asking for help at any time, it was a humbling lesson, but one I took to heart.

It taught me that to reach out to someone going through some flavor of Hell is one of the greatest gifts you can give. But HOW you reach out is as important as the reach itself.

Whether it’s a serious health diagnosis, a mental collapse, a family crisis — really, any situation where someone’s world comes crashing down without warning — you’re going to be needed. And what you do can make all the difference.

I know that without my husband, my close friends, and that army of intuitives, healers, and clients worldwide sending out prayers and affirmations, my cancer story would have been rougher and darker, with more “downs” and difficulties than “ups” and triumphs.

So let me give you some real keys on how to be a Light companion on someone else’s Hell Road.


When someone tells you “I [have cancer/diabetes/etc.] [am getting divorced] [have a crisis with my child]” I know you want to say SOMETHING. But what blurts out of your mouth can be worse than saying nothing at all.

DON’T say:

“Oh my God, that’s horrible!” (They may be trying to deal with not thinking of it as horrible, but as a challenge; that reinforces the negative thoughts.)

“How unfair!” or “Aren’t you angry?” (Same as above.)

“You’ll be all right.” (No one has any way of knowing that yet, and it’s an empty platitude.)

“You know, I knew this friend/girl/guy etc. who had your problem, and…” (The person handling the diagnosis/situation doesn’t CARE how other people handled it. They don’t want to hear about horrors and war stories. It might even bring up fears they didn’t HAVE before you put that in their mind!)

DO say:

“I am sorry you have to go through this.” (If you are.)

“I will pray for you,” or “I will put you on my church’s prayer list.” (Please do, as long as the patient has no objections AND YOU REALLY WILL do it.)

“What can I do to help?”

This last phrase — “what can I do to help?” — is worth diamonds. The person on the Hell Road will need help. Their family will need help. But please, don’t offer if it’s just because you don’t know what else to say.

This is one of the times in life that if someone offers aid, the person in trouble will take it — and count on it.

Saying you’ll do something and then not coming through is cruel if the person who needs you counts on you to help.


Make a concrete offer of assistance.

Don’t say “Just call me if you need anything.” I know from experience that on the Hell Road, your mind is filled with so much that even the simple task of making a phone call can be too much.

A lot of people just curl up and hide, no matter how gregarious and outgoing they were normally. (I’m a perfect example — no one could ever accuse me of being an introvert, but friends had to literally knock on the door to check on me. Returning calls, texts, emails — it was just too much.)

If you can offer something concrete, with a concrete day and time, you become an instant hero. Some examples:

  • “I’ll take your kids on Saturday and they can stay overnight at my place so you can get some rest.”
  • “I’ll arrange for my daughter to come walk Buddy for you after school until you’re back on your feet.”
  • “I know you go grocery shopping on Wednesdays. Why don’t I pick you up for the next couple of weeks and we’ll go together?”
  • “Let me set up a schedule of people to take you to your chemotherapy appointments.”
  • “My vacuum cleaner and I will be over tomorrow to straighten up for you.”

Gestures like this are more cherished than you can possibly know. Most people would never ask their friends to clean their house for them, no matter how bad it got or how little strength they had.

When you’ve been independent for years, the notion of needing help to go grocery shopping can be embarrassing and intimidating. Don’t make your friend ask; think ahead, and say it first.

Find words to inspire.

Some of the best gifts I received were books that gave hope, understanding and compassion. You may have your favorites, but these are what were on my bookshelf:

EMMANUEL’S BOOK (Volumes I-III) by Pat Rodegast and Judith Stanton



NO DEATH, NO FEAR: Comforting Wisdom for Life, by Thich Nhat Han

PRAYERS FOR HEALING: 365 Blessings, Poems and Meditations from Around the World, edited by Maggie Oman

STILL HERE by Ram Dass

WHEN THINGS FALL APART: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön

WHERE THERE IS LIGHT by Paramahansa Yogananda

Sometimes the mind just wants to ‘turn off’ and there’s nothing better than a good fat bad novel to distract you. I get that. But these are books someone on the Hell Road can pick up, read for a few pages, and put down refreshed. And when you’re challenged, buffeted by life, or feeling overwhelmed, the thoughts on these pages can help.

Don’t second-guess.

There are some things the person on the Hell Road will need — and some they definitely won’t.

Please, LISTEN when they say they need something (or don’t want something else).

If you were on the Hell Road, YOU might want a huge bouquet of flowers or a basket of get-well items. That’s fine for you.

But the person on the Hell Road right now may feel a great need for a special brand of tomato soup, or a pink plush pig, or yarn that comes in a particular weight and style — or someone to sit and tell them dirty jokes until they hiccup with laughter.

It doesn’t have to make sense to you; what they’re asking for has meaning for them, and some personal magic for them to hold on to when they need it most.

Get them what they want, not what you might want if you were in the same situation.

Listen and don’t try to fix.

This one can be SO hard!

When someone is going through dark places, sometimes it helps to be able to talk about what’s going through their mind. Or they may be feeling so completely alone in the pain and fear that they just want to hear another’s voice, and know that someone is listening to theirs.

And sometimes they just need to cry their eyes out. They may not even be able to tell you why.

If the person on the Hell Road needs you, please, make time to listen.

Don’t do something else while listening.

Don’t just mumble something noncommittal if you sense a break in the conversation.

Make eye contact if they need it. Listen, even if what they’re saying doesn’t make sense to you; here, that may not matter nearly as much as your holding the space for them to be heard.

The other thing is: don’t automatically try to fix what the speaker thinks is ‘wrong.’

Trying to fix something that seems overwhelming is like saying “You’ll be all right” when no one is sure that’s the case.

If you want, you can ask, “Is this something I can help with, or do you just want me to listen?” Believe me, they’ll know. And that one kind sentence of understanding can do worlds to calm troubled waters of the soul.

Look, in this world of war, collapse, climate disaster and disease, the Hell Road will beckon at some point for every one of us. You WILL be called upon to walk it with someone at least once.

Find ways to do it well. It’s how we’ll all get through life — perhaps scarred but not alone. And you’ll teach people how to walk with YOU when it’s your turn to face it.



Psychic medium & channel since 1973. Author. Certified Tarot Master, past life specialist. I take my work seriously, me not so much.

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Corbie Mitleid

Psychic medium & channel since 1973. Author. Certified Tarot Master, past life specialist. I take my work seriously, me not so much.