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Marisa Renee Lee

Marisa Renee Lee

Grief Advocate, Entrepreneur & Bestselling Author of Grief is Love: Living with Loss

Marisa Renee Lee

Grief Advocate, Entrepreneur & Bestselling Author of Grief is Love: Living with Loss


Marisa Renee Lee is a called upon grief advocate, entrepreneur, and bestselling author of Grief is Love: Living with Loss. Deemed "the friend we all wish we had in times of need" by Elaine Welteroth, Marisa is able to utilize research-based advice and wisdom to help others navigate the complicated and dark emotions we face when experiencing loss, offering unique insights for women and Black communities.

In addition to her work in the grief space, Lee is a former appointee in the Obama White House and CEO of Beacon Advisors, a mission-driven consulting firm primarily focused on racial equity.

She is a rabble-rouser of social healing: former managing director of My Brother's Keeper Alliance;co-founder of the digital platform Supportal; and founder of The Pink Agenda, a national organization dedicated to raising money for breast cancer care, research, and awareness.

Lee also regularly contributes to The Atlantic, Glamour, Vogue, MSNBC, CNN and serves as an expert for Ritual's wellbeing app.

She is a Harvard graduate and an avid home cook. Marisa lives in Virginia with her husband Matt, their newborn son Bennett, and their dog, Sadie.

Speaker Videos

Grief and Loss

Speech Topics

Grief Is Love: Living (and Working) with Loss

Following the success of her bestseller, Grief Is Love: Living with Loss, Marisa Renee Lee has developed a series of talks, armchair discussions and trainings for corporations, associations, healthcare organizations, educators, students and anyone interested in tackling grief and loss. Grief is something we will all encounter. And following the COVID-19 pandemic, which took over 1 million American lives in just two years, it isn’t something any of us can afford to ignore. Marisa’s discussions around grief and loss focus on the core themes from her book: permission, joy and love. She debunks the five stages of grief and shows us what it looks like to live with loss and how to support employees, colleagues and others who experience loss. Fundamentally, she hopes to normalize grief and loss and make it easier for all of us to manage them in a supportive and compassionate way.

Marisa customizes her content for specific audiences, including:

  • Healthcare: Marisa endured the loss of her mom to cancer and then in 2020, battled the grief and physical consequences of losing a much-wanted pregnancy. At the same time, her husband Matt channeled his grief into public service—working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a partner to a healthcare worker, Marisa witnessed firsthand how grief from the pandemic caused those in the health sector to burnout and experience their own grief. Coupled with her research and writing on grief for her bestseller Grief Is Love, Marisa shows how to support the healthcare community through grief and loss.
  • Students (K-12 and College): Marisa first encountered grief when she was 13 and her otherwise healthy mother suddenly fell ill. It would take years to confirm her MS diagnosis, but her mother became disabled almost immediately. Marisa spent her adolescence, college years and early adulthood navigating the grief of a sick and disabled parent and eventually dealing with the loss of her mother to breast cancer. Marisa gives tailored talks to younger audiences about how to navigate grief and loss, advocate for their needs, build community and support their mental health.
  • Corporate: After reaching the point where her mother was taken off treatment for breast cancer, Marisa felt it was best to resign from her position at the bank where she was employed. She wanted to spend as much time as she could with her mom and knew she couldn’t fully do what was expected at her job. Instead of accepting her resignation, her senior supervisor surprised her with his response: They would find a way to make it work. Then, while working at the White House during the Obama administration, Marisa learned how to integrate the loss of her mother into her life. Her colleagues surrounded her with love and empathy and showed her how to show up for herself. Both situations were something she’s never forgotten. And it should be the same for you. Creating a culture of empathy and understanding not only attracts workers, but also increases retention and reduces employee turnover by showing employees that you care and value their contributions. These experiences, coupled with her research and writing on grief for her bestseller Grief Is Love, make Marisa well-positioned to speak to your organization about how supporting employees through grief and loss is good for everyone.

Resilience: It's Not About Lemonade

So often we are told that the key to resilience, to overcoming obstacles, to moving from surviving to thriving is that we should simply make the best of the situation we are handed and keep moving forward until the hard part is behind us. But what do you do when "powering through" is just that—movement without purpose or learning or healing? In reality, true resilience is about learning how to face your pains, to accept them as a part of who you are, and then to incorporate the struggles into your life in a way that is meaningful to you. It is about not getting over the things that hurt us but finding a way to let them transform us. You can live a big and beautiful life even after experiencing immense sorrow. You don't move on from the hard stuff, you move through it and you learn how to live with life's challenges. While the path through pain is individual to us all, there are common techniques that we can all apply to the situations we face; techniques that allow us to purposefully and thoughtfully embrace the things that challenge us the most and to incorporate them into the balance of our life. So if that means forgetting the lemonade and making a cocktail, going to therapy, climbing a mountain, building a tiny house or just sitting quietly and breathing deeply, we all have the capacity and the power to figure out how to thrive in this miserable, broken, beautiful and meaningful world.

Racism as Grief

In her bestselling book Grief Is Love: Living with Loss, Marisa Renee Lee looks at grief not as a single event but as a lived experience—defining grief as the repeated experience of learning to live in the midst of a significant loss. A Black woman, she explores the unique impact of grief on identity, the role that race and racism play and our opportunity to heal from loss and trauma. Marisa defines racism as a form of grief for Black Americans and other people of color. Because no matter how much they love, serve or support this country, they don’t always get that love back. In communities of color, grief is a direct result of racism and affects individuals physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and often financially. Of equal importance, systemic racism often has a direct impact on whether someone’s grief is validated and if they have access to the things they need to heal. Whether examining the Black experience in America or considering the recent rise in antisemitism and anti-Asian hate in our country, Marisa pushes us all to ask hard questions, reckon with our privilege and create safe spaces for all of us to heal. Marisa also discusses what effective allyship actually is and how White Americans can combat racism beyond simply posting a black square on Instagram.

The Costs & Rewards of Caregiving

Whether you’re a professional, a family member or both, being a caregiver can be profoundly rewarding but extremely exhausting at the same time. Marisa Renee Lee had already become a caregiver at age 13, when her mother suddenly became very sick with an unknown illness that they later learned was Multiple Sclerosis. Marisa spent her high school years helping to care for her mother and pitching in with her younger sister as well. She ignored all of her complicated feelings and emotions about her mother’s illness and focused on the things she could control: her academics. She worked her way into Harvard. But by the end of her freshman year, her sister was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. During her four years at college, she frequently traveled home to help care for her mom and her sister during her mental health crisis. As she was preparing to graduate college, her mother got sick again, this time with stage IV breast cancer. Marisa postponed her career on Wall Street to move home and help care for her mother. Over the ensuing years, as her mom's health declined, Marisa split her time between a busy job on Wall Street and helping to care for her mom, alongside her dad. Sharing her story, Marisa wants caregivers and families to know they are not alone. Marisa didn’t always cope effectively with her mother’s or sister’s illnesses and she wants to encourage others to honestly examine how they are impacted when caring for others. She seeks to build a world with more compassion and empathy for all of us.

The Pink Agenda

Marisa Renee Lee was preparing to graduate from Harvard when she learned her mother was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. As her mom's health continued to decline, she split her time between a new job on Wall Street and helping to care for her mom, alongside her dad. Her mom was 49 years old when she ultimately lost her battle with breast cancer. Coming to terms that she was unable to heal her mother’s breast cancer, Marisa sought a way to make an impact on the disease. Her desire to eradicate cancer and find meaning in her mother’s battle with cancer became her driving force, as well as a coping mechanism. Born was The Pink Agenda (TPA), a not-for-profit charity in honor of her mother, committed to raising money for breast cancer research and care, offering programs that are improving the lives of those with breast cancer. Sharing her story, Marisa wants cancer survivors and their caregivers and families to know they are not alone, and remind our healthcare heroes why they chose the healthcare profession to begin with. Her ultimate goal is to raise awareness and reflect on the need to advance research. “We’re in a place where we could see certain forms of cancer actually be eradicated in our lifetime,” she says.