SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – The death and sickness caused by COVID has increased the need for ways to handle grief.

People are looking for emotional healing, but it can be a challenge knowing what to say or do, and those in pain often feel alone and misunderstood.

There are different kinds of therapies using art, meditation, or music, and now a relatively new one called surf therapy.

I found a Bay Area woman practicing that for herself and helping others.

It’s a gathering of women supporting one another as they move through their grief, led by someone who knows the subject too well.

“After the pandemic and loss of my sister, I came to the realization that grief is so universal and so hard to talk about socially,” said Kelsey Ellis.

Kelsey Ellis is a certified grief counselor.

In 2020, her twin sister Audrey was one of the first people in the U.S. known to die from COVID, before much of the world really even knew what it was.

Now Kelsey uses her passion for the ocean and surfing for classes that she calls “Waves of Grief.”

“You have good days and bad days, you always have the memories,” she said.

It’s a free program and over the months since it started, people have come with all kinds of pain and loss.

For some, a relationship has ended, or a loved one has passed.

Others have lost homes to the wildfires, or are dealing with abuse, trafficking, or loneliness.

The key here is the community of others who listen and understand and who find some sense of release in the ocean.

Kelsey’s parents instilled the love of the ocean in both daughters.

Now that same love is helping all of them deal with their grief.

“It was not just surfing, it was love of the ocean,” said mom Janine Ellis.

“We couldn’t be more proud. It’s the perfect backdrop to help people because it’s her sanctuary and she’s sharing that and creating a sanctuary for other people,” said dad Scott Ellis.

“I feel they see Kelsey being healed and touched by it and they’re not afraid,” Janine Ellis said.

In a corner of the beach, the women share their feelings and thoughts, then head into the sea to face their waves of grief.

“I feel supported when I come here. I feel loved and it’s beautiful to be by the ocean doing this, so I always come back stronger.”

“[It’s] giving me an opportunity and place to open up about my grief and be vulnerable.”

“I’m an immigrant here. I haven’t seen my parents for a while. When I go out to the mother ocean, it’s a healing power and I feel the power of mother nature and my mother, I feel like she is hugging me and with me.”

“We talk about waves of grief. If you are grieving someone, you can have strong waves of anger, sadness, and it’s so easy to push those waves away, leave all your stress on land, what you’re going through in the ocean.”

Whenever Kelsey is here, she says her sister Audrey is never far from her thoughts.

“I feel her with me so strongly. And I know she’d so be here. She loved the water and I know if I had passed, she would be doing something very similar,” Kelsey said.

If you would like additional information about Waves of Grief, visit their website here – it’s named after her sister Audrey Marie Ellis.

There you can get details on the drop-in class times as well as sign up for specific programs, or make donations.

Kelsey is also looking to expand Waves of Grief, and do something special for health care workers in the Bay Area.

She promises to keep us posted on that.