I am in a growing friendship. I hope we call it a strong friendship soon. It's mostly based on a common goal, but also a commitment of support. This is not in a professional context at all, this is a personal friend. There is no romantic or financial involvement either.
My friend has unveiled to me the truth behind a mystery I've always wondered about, and it is a bit of a tragedy in their past. The truth was simultaneously shocking in how awful it was, but unsurprising as it very much fit into place with everything else I know about them.
After my friend finished explaining, I feel like the openness bodes well to our commitment, but the facts were still very grim. I expressed my sincere sympathy for the tragedy by saying "I'm so sorry"
They are one of the strongest people I know though. Perhaps their reaction shouldn't have surprised me. My friend's reaction was bordering on offense, and they expressed that they don't want my pity.
Now certainly I meant nothing negative with my expression of sympathy. It was not to look down on them, or frame them as hopeless. It was just sincere sympathy for the very sad thing that had happened. At best, I can shrug this off, pretend the interaction didn't mean much... and that's what I did, for now. But at worst, I feel like (1) they don't care if I care, (2) they are not interested in even the lightest possible support (even though that is the basis of our friendship), or (3) I find my own self bordering on irritation in response to their irritation. The irritated part of me asks "Why would someone reject sincere sympathy like that?"
What is the best way to respond to such an interaction, ideally leaving sincere intentions correctly expressed, positively internalized, and nobody irritated?