Sometimes it makes us angry because we are already emotionally shredded and other time you just have to laugh at the amazing variety of foolish things people can say.
Then there are the people who are so scared of saying the wrong thing that they say nothing at all. If the sorrow is of the "illness" or "death" variety they may send a card or drop off a casserole or salad or cookies. If it is more like a still born child or at divorce or the incarceration of a loved one they may be completely freaked out and afraid of even being where the sorrowing person is.
That is why I love this verse; it is the best advice ever. Romans 12:15: "Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying."
What a perfect idea! Let the person tell you how they are doing before saying much of anything at all. Maybe the parent who passed had been longing to see Jesus, or they may not be able to bear the thought of their passing. Maybe the divorce released someone from an abusive relationship, or maybe the oddest couple you ever met were madly in love even after decades of marriage. Maybe the person does not know what they are feeling and can barely breathe for the pain of the loss; or they may think they are broken because they aren't feeling much yet.
So here is the big secret: it is not necessary to say much at all. You don't need to try to "fix the situation" or give advice or take a side. You can just sit quietly with them, breathing gently and silently praying for the person and asking God if there are any words God wants you so say. You might say, "I don't know what you are feeling, even though I've had some sorrows myself. I realize that everyone's situation is different and unique to them. So if you need an ear I will listen, if not today at any time you call or email or text. If you can think of some small task or errand I can do for you I would be honored to do that.' Or you might just use the short version, "I love you."
It is pretty easy to be happy with those that are happy, especially if we love them and are truly happy for the event or situation that has brought joy. Although even then, when we listen carefully, we sometimes learn new things about our friend.
But this "cry with those who are crying," this is the greatest gift you can give. I remember the faces of people who showed me mercy on dark days. Some were strangers and some names I have forgotten. But the kindnesses abide with me still and my heart is forever grateful for each person who was kind when I had no expectation of kindness from them. I can only pass on this type of listening and loving when I am kindly given an opportunity.
Abiding with, holding a hand, offering a gentle smile, looking into someone's eyes, speaking kindly all are gifts. I give them freely because God has provided mercy and grace for me.