I've been reading an excellent little book called A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss by Jerry Sittser. In 1991 his family was involved in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. The author's wife, mother, and four-year-old daughter were killed, and he was left to raise his three other young children alone.
In the book he reflects on loss and suffering -- and related issues like forgiveness, randomness, the existence of God -- in a very honest, thoughtful, and powerful way. This was a passage that I found especially striking. (Here he is referring to Victor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning and its discussion of people who survived Nazi death camps.)
It was this power to choose that kept the prisoners alive, Frankl noted. They directed their energies inwardly and paid attention to what was happening in their souls. They learned that tragedy can increase the soul's capacity for darkness and light, for pleasure as well as for pain, for hope as well as for dejection. The soul contains a capacity to know and love God, to become virtuous, to learn truth, and to live by moral conviction. The soul is elastic, like a balloon. It can grow larger through suffering. Loss can enlarge its capacity for anger, depression, despair, and anguish, all natural and legitimate emotions whenever we experience loss. Once enlarged, the soul is also capable of experiencing greater joy, strength, peace, and love. What we consider opposites -- east and west, night and light, sorrow and joy, weakness and strength, anger and love, despair and hope, death and life -- are no more mutually exclusive than winter and sunlight. The soul has the capacity to experience these opposites, even at the same time.