Recently I have been in a position where a friend of mine has been going through difficult times and has come to me as a shoulder to cry on and/or for emotional support. During these times I find myself saying "I know" a lot in response to their statements. Specifically, these are statements about their feelings on situations that neither I nor they have a direct power to change, this is simply them needing to vent/rant/receive sympathy.
Them: "I am feeling super overwhelmed and I just don't know what to do"
Me: "I know, I know, and I'm here to support you"
In the past, a (former) significant other of mine told me that my usage of the phrase "I know" in such situations makes me seem condescending or that I am invalidating their feelings, almost as if I am implying that the feelings are obvious and they are wasting my time by telling them to me.
This, of course, is not at all what I want to convey. When I say "I know" I mean it as a way of expressing my understanding and sympathy, that I see their emotions as valid and, to the best of my ability, understand their hardship.
How can I convey this same sentiment, of sympathy, understanding, and support, without using the phrase "I know" which may unintentionally portray condescension or dismissal? I am looking for a similarly short phrase that I can try to replace "I know" with in my vocabulary.