Former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday tied his personal tragedies to the consoling he does on the campaign trail, saying it gives him a sense of purpose to help those who are grieving.
At a CNN town hall, Biden said people often come up to him at events, and "all of a sudden, a man or woman will just grab me and hug me and say, I just lost my son, lost my daughter, tell me, am I going to be OK, am I going to be OK?"
Biden's first wife and infant daughter were killed in 1972 in a car crash, right after he won his US Senate seat. Decades later, Biden's son Beau, an Iraq war veteran who served as the attorney general of Delaware, died in 2015 from brain cancer at the age of 46.
"Everybody's different, but what I found is the way you overcome enormous tragedy is you've got to find purpose in your life," Biden said.
He said purpose is best utilized if that purpose relates to the person you lost and what they cared about.
"When you're the recipient of someone's understanding and empathy, you understand how it can help," Biden said. "And it's just impossible, although sometimes it's hard, to not share it with others."
"It gives me some sense of purpose when I'm able to be of some help."
In reflecting on the tragedies he's faced, Biden noted that "a lot of people have suffered more than I have with loss."
The Democratic presidential candidate asked people in the audience at Grinnell College to raise their hand if they had lost someone they loved to cancer. Several did.
"There will come a time, if anybody of you are going through it, where the thought of the person you lost will bring a smile to your lip before it brings a tear to your eye. That's when you know you're going to be able to make it. That's when you know. But it's hard. It's hard," he said.
Biden said he's been lucky in that he's had an "incredible family," and people who were there to help him through it.
"I get up, like many of you do with the loss you have, and think to myself -- for real, not a joke -- is he proud of me today? Is she proud of what I'm doing?" Biden said.
He said, "I found I think they're just part of me and it's the way I've dealt with it."