Tragedy at Surfside brings with it emotional toll for many

A South Florida psychologist says there is no way to prepare for the emotional toll the Surfside tragedy has caused for so many.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – An emotionally grueling 12 days for the families of those unaccounted for in Surfside is also taking a toll on first responders, survivors, and the community as a whole who are feeling the weight of the tragedy.

A South Florida psychiatrist who Local 10 News spoke with said it is the continued stress of the unknown, too, that is having an impact.

For rescuers, the work is grueling. Physical exhaustion is met with the emotional cadence of days on end spent helping to find the missing, explains Hollywood-based psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Bober.

“I think that no matter how much you train for something like this can you ever really be mentally prepared for it,” Bober said.

He said that rescuers are not only under duress to find survivors but are facing other pressures.

“You are also getting pressure from the families that . . . maybe you are not working fast enough. These are only human beings and these are people that they are putting their own lives at risk both physically and mentally to do this task. So, as far as I am concerned, they are all heroes,” Bober said.

Then there are the loved ones of the missing where grief is suspended in time because of the excruciating wait to hear any news of the missing and unaccounted for.

“It is like that emotional loop has not been closed,” Bober explained. “Even though, at some level, they know their loved ones are gone, they would like to recover the bodies to give them a sense of closure,” he said. Bober said sometimes the hope is worse than the pain. “Holding onto hope prevents you from dealing with the reality of the situation and then finally internalizing that grief to be able to move forward.”

What happened, too, at Surfside is a trauma that is being felt communitywide.

“I think it is very important for us to continue to come together as a community to really support the people going through this because the old saying, ‘But the grace of God go I.’ It could anyone of us going through this,” he said. “This is just something that is leaving a whole in our hearts.”

For survivors, Bober’s advice is to take it slow – one day at a time.

And there’s an overall life lesson for everyone, he said. “Maybe we just have to hug the ones we have just a little bit closer and realize at the end of the day your life is defined by the human connections.”

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."