Collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida
Collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, FloridaChandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

The Jewish world is following the tragedy of the Miami Surfside collapse as it unfolds, as are so many others.

While the full details are yet to come, we can already sense that the next few days and weeks will not be simple, to say the least. For some, these days may contain some of life's darkest and most difficult challenges. On a broader level as a community, and even broader as a nation, they will not be easy. Our hearts are heavy and with the residents of those affected by this unprecedented event.

What can we do to prepare ourselves for what is yet to come?

What steps can we take to help us manage and be as effective and healthy as possible, despite such unbelievable circumstances?

While each tragedy has its unique characteristics and demands from survivors, here are several universal guidelines that can make things slightly easier or more manageable for them:

One, give validation to your feelings and experience as a survivor, or your lack of feeling.

Experts in disaster behavioral health tell us that during and after shocking events it is alright to feel anything at all. The different manners in which people react to tragedy are all valid and normal, considering the circumstances. Sleep disturbances, changes of mood and appetite, feeling surreal or confused, panic, anger, survivor's guilt, and more can all be ways of experiencing tragedy.

Not feeling anything at all is also a common a way that people react to extremely traumatic events. Be compassionate and understanding of your feelings and symptoms, knowing it is par for the course when a tragedy strikes. Let these feelings come as they do and leave when they decide to. Do not force yourself to feel any certain way or feel upset that you don't feel like you "should feel". The way we each react to trauma is highly individual and complex.

Two, you are encouraged to seek support.

Recruit friends, neighbors, or extended family to help you manage simple house chores or meal preparation. Consider enlisting a mental health professional to learn how to manage strong emotions and trauma more effectively. There is a Jewish program, funded by the Chai Lifeline organization, called "Project Chai". Project Chai maintains a 24-hour crisis hotline to give expert advice on coping with trauma. They can be reached at 855-3-CRISIS or by email at [email protected].

They also just released a video by the renowned psychologist Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox, offering guidance on how to explain the Miami tragedy to one's children. This video can be found here . There is a saying that shared pain is divided pain. Ask for help. Ask friends to be with you, help you with technical matters, or to find a mental health professional. One of the hallmarks of the Jewish people is our brotherhood and eagerness to help one another. Please do not hesitate to ask and tell somebody your needs.

Three, limit your media intake.

Your personal connection to this tragedy may require you to be abreast on unfolding updated information about the rescue efforts and community sources of support. Still, there are better and worse ways of receiving and attaining this information. Consider appointing a close friend or family member to be in charge of relaying to you the information that you need, and keep yourself one step away from being personally engaged in this sometimes overwhelming, exhausting, and traumatizing process.

If you do not need to know something, consider leaving it alone, and let others help you know the pertinent information that you personally need to help your loved ones. Unnecessary exposure to media, graphic images, and rumors are not helpful to a survivor and make it more difficult to cope. Don’t be shy to ask for help in this area.

Four, you are not a machine, and even machines need maintenance!

During times of crisis we feel guilty taking a break to rest and relax the body, mind, and spirit, but this is critical. You can help your loved ones effectively if you take care of yourself along the way. You must try to maintain your physical and emotional health as best as possible. You must eat, sleep, and budget extra time for when falling asleep doesn’t go as good as planned. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Use music and other safe ways to calm the mind. If you feel overstimulated, take a break. When you feel that you are ready, continue. Pacing yourself is important.

Five, if you are a family member or close friend living far away from those in Miami or elsewhere going through this tragedy, see how you can be helpful to survivors.

First, assess how you can indeed provide them help. Can you offer money? Can you cook? Can you babysit? Can you watch a pet? Can you provide emotional support? Sometimes well-intentioned people overwhelm survivors with unspecific offers to help or with an abundance of material items, but this only burdens a survivor. Consider a specific way how you can help and offer this to survivors in a straight to the point, simple manner. Let them turn you down if this is what they choose and respect their decision. We do not want to harm people in the name of help.

Also, ask survivor's how they would like you to be helpful, if at all. They may surprise you with their answer and request a method of assisting them that you did not expect. I remember once being present at the CPR of an adult man who surprisingly drowned in a swimming pool. I asked his spouse if there way any way that I could he helpful to the family at that time. She responded with a request that I did not expect. "Gather twenty school children and ask them to recite prayers for my husband to survive!" This request was important to this survivor so that is exactly what I did, and I stepped outside to gather twenty children to stop and pray.

Ultimately, we want to help survivors in a helpful manner, and not get in their way. Sometimes we offer help for our own egoistic interests, but our job is to focus on what those suffering need right now, and to deliver that as best as possible.

Six, if a survivor asks for emotional support, make sure you know how to offer this.

Know how to listen to a survivor and validate their feelings, without rushing to offer your King-Solomon advice.

After letting a survivor feel heard and validated, try to determine if they are interested in learning ways to cope with their traumatic stress. If they express interest in this, you can ask them to think of 1-3 ways or actions they can take to relieve their stress and better cope. If they are unsure, ask if there was ever anything in the past that the survivor did to deal with a very stressful situation in their life, and to explore if that method would be appropriately applied here as well.

Consider offering some healthy balanced methods of coping with stress if a survivor does not come up with methods on their own and need a little assistance. Make sure to encourage them to rest, eat, seek social support. Perhaps they can use periodic breaks to just walk outside with an understanding friend and notice nature and the mundane world outside.

Ask if they would like to receive assistance from a mental health professional and make sure to have a phone number handy in advance to make that connection.

Before holding conversations with a survivor, do homework on what local resources are available and practical information that can benefit the person whom you will be talking with, so that this info will be ready for you to give while talking together. Ask the survivor how often it would be helpful for them to be in touch.

There is much to say on this topic. These are some very general guidelines that are often helpful to those undergoing traumatic events like the one currently unfolding in Miami.

Seven, remember your spiritual needs.

People around the world across numerous cultures draw comfort, hope, and strength from their spiritual beliefs. How much is this true for the Jewish people! Do not neglect your spiritual needs. Pause to find faith, to connect with an understanding or inspiration spiritual mentor, make time for earnest prayer, and use your spiritual beliefs and rituals to get through these times.

I recently visited somebody in the hospital and saw somebody familiar looking walking down the hall. I asked "excuse me, but you look very familiar, have we met before?" It turns out that this person is a father who lost some of his children to the hand of murderers in a terror attack a few years ago. I had recognized him from that event and we started talking. This survivor, who lost some of his children, began telling me how central faith and his spiritual beliefs were in carrying him through those times, all the way until today. These are powerful resources and parts of who we are as individuals and as a nation and they should be tapped into and utilized too!

I have no words for survivors and what they are enduring. Our hearts and prayers are with you. May we get through this together as best as possible and merit to hear good tidings.

Avi Tenenbaum is an expert in Disaster Behavioral Health and Psychological First Aid. His experience includes providing aid for people coping in the wake of large-scale disasters and war including the Second Lebanon War, Hurricane Harvey, The Pittsburg Tree-of-Life massacre, the Haifa 2016 Fires, Operation Cast-Lead, Sorotzkin Arson Fires, Meron Civil Disaster, and more. He can be reached at