For a short period of time, these people are all you've got. They are the ones that are with you when the captain comes on and makes a joke about traveling at sub-sonic speeds, when the flight attendant can't seem to get the safety dance script right. Remember, I'm an extrovert. I know everyone else isn't, and most importantly, that the person sitting next to me may be an introvert. So my rule is to shut up. I'll chat if you start it, but I try to never start it. It's a hard rule for me, but I think it contributes to a polite society. I'm thankful for the people who start the conversation, though. Because you learn things about people that you can't see from the outside. That lady sitting next to you? Her mom died of cancer 6 weeks ago. She still feels like she's going through the motions and isn't sure how it's ever going to be okay. Her dad is so lonely. Her sister lives far away.
So, you tell her that she's met a countryman. You offer condolences and agree that it's terrible crap to endure. You tell her that it doesn't really get easier, and there are hard terrible days. You might even start crying while reading a book on an airplane on the way to Las Vegas. Even if it's a really good book, you feel a little silly. But, you just have to let it out. And after a while, you get used to things being different. You aren't as surprised by it anymore. It makes it easier, and somehow you get through - you just have to remember where to look for help.