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Life, Death & The Space Between

Apr 13, 2023


“I don’t think we ever get over… these big losses in life… and I don’t think we’re supposed to.” — Marisa Renee Lee





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Think about the most heart-wrenching loss you’ve experienced. Now think about the most magical love you’ve experienced. What do they have in common? A lot actually, it turns out.


Today we talk with Marisa Renee Lee, a grief advocate, author, former Obama appointee, and CEO of the DEI consultancy, Beacon Advisors.


She is also a Harvard graduate, and the 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.


Listen in to hear about Marisa’s journey through grief and motherhood – two closely intertwined experiences for her, the push and pull between asking for help when grieving and having it offered, sociopolitical barriers to grieving, the role of friendships in grief, and how exactly grief is love.


Topics We Discuss:


  • [3:48] Marisa’s book is a memoir of her own journey grieving her mother. Her mother had undiagnosed MS that left permanent damage because of a lack of care and was later diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Marisa spent much of her adolescence as a caretaker until her mother died. A pregnancy loss in 2019 finally pushed her to write Grief is Love.


  • [8:28] Marisa finally started examining her grief over her mom because the void she found herself in from losing a pregnancy and not having her mom to comfort her was too painful.


  • [10:29] Grief softens over time, but it still comes up even 15+ years later. Marisa allows herself time and space to grieve and does her best to take her own advice. When you’re missing someone, ask yourself what you are craving from that person and find a way to give it to yourself.


  • [13:18] Asking for vs being offered help when grieving. There is a balance needed for both. Actions matter more than words. Do something for people that is either practical support or something that is a personal gift rooted in your relationship with the person. Sometimes the help we need is professional. We all need to get more comfortable asking for help.


  • [19:29] Grieving as a Black woman in America. Minority communities are often most removed from access to necessary care. Black women are held to a higher standard for tolerating pain and are often told to “grin and bare it”.


  • [23:48] People in positions of power and privilege need to make room for less privileged people to grieve and struggle. Capitalism as it stands now doesn’t allow for grief and healing. Grief time and parental leave need to become larger policy issues.


  • [26:00] Grief is not just something that happens with death. Any time we lose hope of a future that we have some degree of certainty about, we grieve. 


  • [28:05] Marisa talks about one of her best friends missing her mom’s funeral. This was a huge strain on their relationship but they are still close today. It taught Marisa that grief requires grace for everyone involved because we all make mistakes.


  • [33:51] Discussion of quotes from the book. Show up for the people you love. True friends are people that we let inconvenience us at times and who let us inconvenience them.


  • [37:40] Joy in the face of grief. Don’t feel guilty for laughing during your grief process. Don’t force yourself to feel it but leave room for it to show up. Being honest about our grief helps to create that space.

  • [39:42] How is grief love? Becoming a mother gave Marisa so much perspective and understanding about her grief and her mother’s love for her. The “continuing bonds” theory – the best way to live with intense loss is to find a way to continue a relationship with the deceased. Marisa’s sign from her mom can be found in the cover of Grief is Love.




Find Marisa and more about her projects, Supportal and The Pink Agenda, on her website, Instagram, or Twitter.


Marisa’s book, “Grief is Love” is available on Amazon. (affiliate)


Life, Death and the Space Between is brought to you by:

Dr. Amy Robbins | Host, Executive Producer

PJ Duke | Executive Producer

Andrej | Podcastize | Audio & Video Editing

Mara Stallins | Outreach & Social Media Strategy

Claire | | Podcast Cover Design