Waves of Grief

The Waves of Grief Collective: The Waves of Grief Collective emerged from Groundswell Community Project and the San Diego Pain & Trauma Institute's womxn-based surf therapy program in 2020 to become one of the world’s very first ocean community-based support organizations to reduce loneliness and isolation in grief during COVID-19’s early, most traumatic days. Waves of Grief in the San Francisco Bay Area was featured in National Geographic’s documentary  “Impact” which is currently featured on the National Geographic channel and Disney + in 142 countries and 78 languages.

In 2021 we expanded our services to include children and men. 

In 2022 Waves of Grief was sought after by the US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and also awarded a Jefferson Award.  We brought our model of care to the International Surf Therapy Organization where we continue to work to foster circles of welcome on the shore.  Now with 7 sites and partners, in community we can continue to find meaning in order to keep leaning into the world after loss, to keep moving waves of grief through the psyches of our bodies, and to integrate it. 

The ocean is our source of healing, connection and play. 


Kelsey Ellis

Kelsey is a MA child life specialist, surf therapy  and certified grief counselor. Her background lies in facilitating expressive art therapeutic programs for trauma recovery. She is the Program Director for Josie's Place, which provides peer support for grieving youth. 

Collectively her professional and personal experiences have further fueled her passion for fostering community connection through creative programing. In March of 2020 Kelsey unexpectedly lost her twin sister to Covid19 complications. In response to her personal waves of grief, and solace found found in the ocean she began leading Waves of Grief surf therapy support groups. 

 In 2020 National Geographic & Gal Gadot selected Kelsey to share her grief journey and healing found through surf therapy in IMPACT .   The documentary shorts series is about young women who are making an extraordinary impact around the world.

Kelsey is a proud recipient of the Jefferson Award for creating change in her community through Waves of Grief.

Most recently Kelsey was sought out to facilitate a Waves of Grief program for the US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and his team. 

Kelsey truly believes that healing can be found through authentic expression, community engagement, and connection to nature. 


Michelle Q Slavik

When Michelle Q. Slavik takes her surfboard into the water, she does it for herself, she does it for her late husband, and she does it for others who are also dealing with loss.  

Michelle is a trained surf therapy provider  with a professional background in building infrastructure to deliver much needed medicine to underserved communities.  She has been facilitating Waves of Grief since 2020 after having first participated in the National Geographic Series Impact.  In 2021, Michelle joined Kelsey on the inaugural Bay Area team and later that year, extended Waves of Grief into the workplace when she was invited to share her  story at her Bay Area based Biotech company.

Most recently, Michelle supported Waves of Grief for the US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, expanded community to Ventura, CA with Anna Cho of Hydrotheory, and into the surf therapy community at ISTO (International Surf Therapy Organization).

Together, her professional and personal experiences have ignited her dedication towards healing and creating in community supportive of loss and trauma at the water's shore.  “It is easier to tap into your heart space when you’re in nature.” Michelle says.