Writer Marisa Renee Lee with family and dog.Writer Marisa Renee Lee with family and dog.

How to Support Adoptive Families Embracing the joy and complexity of adoption.

By Marisa Renee Lee

Marisa Renee Lee is a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur. To know Marisa is to know her mother Lisa. Marisa served as a caretaker for Lisa who had MS and ultimately died from breast cancer in 2008. Marisa has also battled infertility and pregnancy loss, and these experiences have taught her that grief is really just another form of love. Her writing has been featured in Vogue, The Atlantic, Glamour, and a host of other outlets. In addition to her writing, she has served as the founder of several organizations, including Beacon Advisors, a social impact consulting firm.

November marked #adoptionawarenessmonth, and as Thanksgiving inched closer, I couldn’t help but reflect on my family and how lucky we were to officially adopt Bennett last year.

Adoption is messy, complex, and full of grief and trauma, but it’s also been the source of my life’s greatest joy. I know grief well, having written an entire book about it, but I had no idea what was in store when we started out on our path to parenthood. 

I do not and won’t ever share any of the details surrounding Bennett’s adoption because that’s his story, not mine, but what I will share are a few ideas for how you can support the adoptive families in your life:


If you are trying to support friends who are adopting, please don’t expect them to add to their lengthy to do list educating you about the process. They have more than enough to do already, so if you want to help, take some time to educate yourself on adoption so you’re more informed about how you might be able to support them. 


Most of the actual adoption process has to be handled by the parents directly, so take on the things that they don’t have to do, like building a baby registry, writing recommendation letters, or bringing them a meal when they face disappointment along the way. Our family had less than 24 hours to prepare for Bennett’s arrival, and we never would have been ready if not for our crew. When we got the call about Bennett, I texted three girlfriends and asked them to organize everyone else and they literally did everything. Diapers, formula, car seat, stroller, an Airbnb, it was all handled by someone else because we just didn’t have the capacity.  Be prepared to step up throughout the process, especially if friends get a sudden call about a baby! 


Fundamentally, I believe that adoption is rooted in love, and love should always be celebrated. Adoptive families often miss out on traditional celebrations like baby showers because of timing or concerns that the adoption may not work out, so be prepared to celebrate adoption-specific milestones: the day they met their baby, the day the adoption was finalized, or consider throwing a welcome home party once they and their child are settled at home. Adoption is a long road when adoptive parents are ready, help them create space for joy.

Adoption is a very complicated space, and I don’t expect everyone, myself included, to get it right the first time around. I hope you will consider taking time this month to really learn about adoption and all of the challenges and complications and grief and love and JOY that comes with it.