I have learned by experience that it is not a good thing to tell anyone in grief or going through any trial in life to say, "I understand exactly how you feel." The truth of the matter is that you and I really don't know how any other person feels about anything. We may think we do, but, one's feelings are his or her own, and each person is different.
That difference is expressed by age, maturity, sex, temperament, and experiences in life. Most of us tend to guard or hide our feelings because of previous embarrassment when we expressed a feeling as a child or youth, and were chastised or condemned by our elders for expressing a feeling. So, we experienced the feeling of shame for having shared any feeling that others thought was unacceptable. We must remember that feelings are God-given, and are not wrong. The way we deal with them determines their meaning.
Anger, for example, is not a primary emotion. You have to get beneath the anger to find out the cause for it. Anger usually happens when we are disappointed, hurt, attacked verbally, and no one seems to listen or pick up why we are offended. To express a deeper hidden feeling we often will express anger either consciously or unconsciously.
To say, "I know how you feel," cuts off the flow of sharing one's personal feelings.
It is far better to say, "I do not understand how you feel, but I would like to understand. If you would like to tell me about it, I am ready to hear it." That kind of response tends to put at ease the other person, and if they are so inclined and would like to trust you with his or her feelings, you give him or her permission to tell you. That response frees up the other person to tell you what they may want to share with you. Most of us share bits and pieces. So, it is like peeling an onion. We do it one layer at a time. That takes love and patience
A key to healthy relationships is to give another person space as well as freedom to tell you whatever they would like to tell you. Never get in anyone's face, pry, or probe. Be willing to allow the chemistry of the moment to facilitate the flow of feelings. If it doesn't happen, at least you have stood with that person in silence and love and showed that you really care. Silence is golden and often will produce a powerful moment of truth that can be revealing without shame. Most of us want other people to love us, regardless of what we have experienced.
Fanny Crosby in her beautiful hymn entitled, "Rescue the Perishing," wrote this third stanza of that great song which expresses so clearly what I am trying to tell you today:
Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
A friend in all seasons,