We all have very limited capacity of understanding those situations where we are not the main character. At best, we can try to relate what others live and feel to something that once happened to us. And even when we do it, we usually miss the mark.
The first part of the problem is with the need to understand. We feel we have to understand something, relate to it, make it ours before we can actually act on it. And the second part of the problem is right there, with the desire to grab the bull by the horns and do something about the whole thing.
Empathy does not require understanding, nor action. To practice empathy you just need presence (more than merely physical) and openness.
Only when we are like that can others truly find their way.