This is a somewhat clunky way to reply, but I couldn’t fit this into 140 characters.
Teller addressed this point in a way I found really meaningful in an interview about Play Dead. The discussion was about psychic frauds, but I think it addresses your comment about not being able to offer hope as an atheist.
“What makes life precious is that it ends, and anything that takes away our awareness that it ends makes life less precious. And that’s a really important thing to keep in mind when people say, “you know, you’re giving them hope.” Well, you don’t want to give them hope, you want to give them life.”
Maybe all we can offer is “I love you, and I’m here for you.” You’re giving them something to rely on today: you, your love and support.
(For the record, the full interview can be found on The Magic Newswire Podcast, #291: Teller, Todd & Tomsoni)