This is a starkly different picture than standing awkwardly, patting someone on the shoulder whose pain frightens us because we can't imagine being able to survive it ourselves.
No matter how much we love someone and long to comfort them, doing so is exceedingly difficult if we are not confident that the harshest struggles and most stunning sorrows can be survived; that we can "come through" to a new normal that includes the love of family and friends, that includes purpose and even, eventually, joy again.
When my young nephew was diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness, the treatment was challenging. But my nephew was encouraged to take note of the positives that happened through the process, friendships made, a more mature sense of what is important being embraced, a deep appreciation of family being rooted in hope and support and love as well as more lighthearted moments that brought relief from the enormous seriousness of the situation. Having the habit of looking for the positives, the blessing, the gentle laughter has resulted in a particularly kind and thoughtful man all these years later.
I asked a co-worker (very gently and with utmost respect) this question when her youngest son passed away unexpectedly. "I know you loved him dearly, but you seem far calmer than I might have expected." She smiled a sad smile and said, "Well, I choose to be grateful for all the days I had him, rather than ruin all the good memories by over-focusing on the sad one." Her generous response let me to begin considering that maybe the way my family of birth handled life's sorrows and challenges might not be the only respectful way to deal with sadness. It has made my life infinitely better in so many ways over the past decades.
So, when the challenges come, the sorrows come (and they are truly the universal experience of life) do not get stuck wailing "why me?" and lingering in hopelessness, but instead keep tucked in the back of your heart, the idea that as you travel these difficult paths, there will be a time when God will reveal a greater work for you, a usefulness for your pain that will honor the loss and give victory over the challenges in ways you can not currently imagine if you can open your heart to the possibility.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Oh God of Comfort and Hope, whisper You tender mercies into the hearts of all who grieve for loss: huge loses, big losses, small losses, losses buried in blessings that are still losses. Help us to give our broken hearts to You Lord to be made resilient, but tender, to be healed with new understanding infused in its walls. Temper us when we are inclined to be selfish in our pain, even feeling an odd sense of superiority because we feel no one can offer any consolation because our pain is unique in all the history of the world. Instead, Lord, grant us your Amazing Grace and Tender Mercies that we may humbly accept healing and be restored to hope and purpose in the new normal. AMEN