“Let Us Learn to Show Our Friendship…”
Jun 21, 2011 by Victoria Noe
My high school reunion - 2010“Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald I heard that line while watching a rerun of Law & Order: UK, and I thought it was perfect for the topic of grieving the death of a friend.As I’ve interviewed people for my book, there is one subject that raises genuine passion. They’re telling me the story of a friend who has died. Sometimes there is a lot of pain: they were shut out by the family, maybe not even notified; they were not allowed access to their friend while they were dying. Maybe they couldn’t get off work to...
My Dad’s Friends
Jun 17, 2011 by Victoria Noe
In the backyard with DaddyMy parents were part of a group of about 6 couples. All had married around 1949, stayed married, raised their families in the same place they grew up themselves. My Dad met one guy when they were 5 years old; others he met when they worked at a factory. The men were loud and a little goofy at times. Their culinary adventures rarely extended beyond meat and potatoes or Italian food (my Dad was a notable exception to that rule). We’ve celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, weddings and baptisms with them all. With the exception of one couple closer to my age, in my fifties I still refer to them as “Mr. and Mrs.” rather than their...
Welcome She Writers!
Jun 10, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Welcome She Writers to the Bloggers Ball Re-Re-Redux!My blog is for people to share their experiences grieving the death of a friend. Many people feel not only the loss of that person, but a surprising lack of respect for their grief. That's why the title of my book is "It's Not Like They're Family": Mourning Our Friends and Celebrating Their Lives.Feel free to browse and comment, and follow if you'd like. I look forward to visiting your blogs this weekend, too!
Don’t Tell Me How to Grieve!
Jun 10, 2011 by Victoria Noe
There have been times when my grief has been so overwhelming that I didn’t realize what people were saying to me. I’d nod my head, as if in agreement. I thought if they believed I was agreeing with them, they’d leave me alone. It was only later – hours, days, even months later – that their words began to make sense.My post on Wednesday, “Types of Grievers – Part 4”, really hit a nerve with people. In addition to comments on this blog, I got private emails about the subject of the post. In it, I talked about the worst kind of grieving, when you feel you can’t or shouldn’t grieve the way that makes the most sense to you.“You...
Types of Grievers – Part 4
Jun 08, 2011 by Victoria Noe
“You need to be strong for...”“You need to move on.”“Why haven’t you cried?”We all grieve in our own way. But the fourth and final type of griever described here is the type no one wants to be. This griever can’t or won’t express their grief the way that feels most natural to them. Generally speaking, in our culture, men are expected to be the strong ones when dealing with grief, and women are expected to willingly express their feelings.Men may feel that any expression of emotion is not “masculine” and should be suppressed. Women may feel that there’s something wrong with them because they’re not crying.Men may feel they should limit their physical contact with others to stiff hugs and...
Jun 03, 2011 by Victoria Noe
This is a picture of a scarf that belonged to my friend, Delle. She had quite a collection of scarves. Tall and vivacious, she wore them with style, unlike those of us who struggle tying them.At the gathering after her funeral mass, those attending received “goodie bags”: a blue paper bag, with her photo on the side, with one of her scarves inside. I remember making my selection very carefully, and choosing this one. I wanted something of her, some piece of her. Its bright blues and reds and purples were familiar to me, and comforting. When I wear it, I say I’m “taking Delle with me.”Delle has traveled with me to Missouri and New York, California and Kentucky. She...
In Service to His Friends
Jun 01, 2011 by Victoria Noe
I thought I'd post something else appropriate for the week of Memorial Day.To hear a touching account of working in Graves Registration during the Vietnam War, click on the link below. And consider the opportunity to preserve the memory of your friends through StoryCorps.Friendship StoryCorps
Band of Friends
May 30, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Robert Noe - 1946I was thinking today, Memorial Day, about my father. He enlisted in the Navy in January, 1946, at the age of 17. Too late for the war, he spent two years up and down the coast of California. He talked about the men he served with in much the same way as we’ve become used to in movies and on TV.We've seen many over the years - sprawling blockbusters, quiet reflections, black & white and color - on the big screen and on TV. Each is a little different, a slightly different take on war, death, life, friendship, purpose:Band of BrothersThe Great Escape“Combat!”Apocalypse Now“JAG”The Longest DayPatton“NCIS”The Great SantiniMovies and TV shows about war and the military are...
Friends Grieving All Around Us
May 27, 2011 by Victoria Noe
There are stretches of time when it feels like there is no good news in the world. Tornadoes, earthquakes, accidents, war, floods…the bad news is relentless.I’ve been in New York for the past week, at Book Expo America and conducting research and interviews for my book. It was intense and exhilarating and exhausting. So was the news: *The search for loved ones in the aftermath of killer tornadoes in the Midwest.*A New York City firefighter, a survivor of 9/11 who never got over the guilt of surviving his brother firefighters in the Deutsche Bank fire, committed suicide.*A sailor just arrived in NYC that day for Fleet Week, was struck and killed by a car on the West Side Highway.Obviously,...
Things You Can Do When a Friend is Dying
May 19, 2011 by Victoria Noe
One of the hardest things about experiencing the death of a friend is figuring out what you can do.Their family may have the essentials covered, or they may live in a supportive community.Maybe not; you won’t know unless you ask.Courtney Strain was dying when she wrote a beautiful, short pamphlet What you can do when a friend (like me) faces the end of life. She wanted people to know that the dying are living every day, and they still need their friends. An excerpt:“Just because I’m dying doesn’t mean I’m any less capable of being your friend. Dying isn’t my whole identity. Let me be a real person in your life. I can talk about other things besides death and...
Dying Matters - For Friends, Too
May 17, 2011 by Victoria Noe
I’m in my best friend’s will.She told me long ago what she was leaving me. It has no value to anyone in her family; in fact, she’d prefer they didn’t open the box at all. It’s a personal keepsake of our past, mostly high school.I think it was when I was in St. Louis for her father’s funeral that I told her there was huge flaw in this plan. “You’re assuming you go first,” I told her. After a moment, she agreed that was problematic. (Plus, I really, really, really would like to have that box now.)This week is Dying Matters week in the UK, a time for people to at least begin the difficult conversations we must have but...
Types of Grievers – Part 3
May 13, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Last month I posted about two different types of grievers.Some people channel their grief into action: running errands, organizing, bringing food to the family.Some people are very open with their feelings, talking and crying when they feel the need.Then there are people who do both.I envy them.Those are people who feel comfortable expressing their feelings, even if it’s uncomfortable to others. They cry in front of us, not because they expect us to make everything better, but because they need to cry. When they’re not crying – and sometimes even if they are – they keep busy. They organize the gathering after the funeral service, they make sure everyone at the wake signs the condolence book, they sign for flower...
Flashbacks of 9/11
May 12, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Photo courtesy Taunton Gazette The news earlier this month about the death of Osama bin Laden wasn’t entirely good news.I found that every person I talked to about this – without exception – shared some memory of that day almost 10 years ago.Sometimes it was as innocuous as “so-and-so was supposed to be there for a meeting, remember?”Sometimes it was “we really didn’t understand what was going on” (from my daughter, who was 7 at the time).But sometimes the feelings were raw, as raw as they were that day. The comments were passionate and full of a pain that has not eased, even after all this time.Rather than bring “closure” (that word again), the death of bin Laden stirred...
Are Friends Considered "Loved Ones"?
May 10, 2011 by Victoria Noe
I got a request today for a referral to a grief support group for friends.Now, I’ve been doing some occasional research on this for about six months now. My completely unscientific results so far have shown that very, very few grief support groups specifically (that is, in their literature) welcome friends.Why is that?I asked the Executive Director of a well-known agency in Chicago, and she insisted that their general grief support groups welcome friends. When I reminded her that the group description mentions loved ones, she insisted that that included friends.“I’ve never thought ‘loved ones’ meant ‘friends’,” I told her. She was surprised. She assumed that – because she believed it – that everyone accepted that friends are in fact...
The Myth of Closure - Part 3
May 06, 2011 by Victoria Noe
It's been quite a week, hasn't it?I’ve been talking to a lot of people this week about closure, as it applies – or doesn’t – to the death of Osama bin Laden.The word has been bandied about in newspapers, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and every news program on TV. My “research” has gleaned the following observations:1. Closure does not end grief.2. Justice does not ultimately equal closure.3. Those who speak most emphatically about closure tend to be observers to the situation, rather than directly affected.4. Those who are most directly affected by 9/11 don’t all see bin Laden’s death as closure.5. Believing there is closure makes people feel better, because they think they will no longer have to witness grief.6. Closure...
The Myth of Closure - Part 2
May 05, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Firefighter's PewSt. Paul's Chapel near Ground Zero“I hope it brings some comfort to the families. No closure. That word should be stricken from the English language.” - Lee Ielpi, whose son, Jonathan, a firefighter from Queens, died on 9/11 (quoted in the May 3, 2011 New York Times).Much is made of the concept of closure. We’ve been told that certain things – an anniversary, a verdict, a discovery – can somehow end grief. Closure is considered the act of putting a period at the end of the sentence of grief. Except there’s no such thing. The death of Osama bin Laden has been heralded as closure for those who lost family and friends on 9/11, the end of the grieving....
The Myth of Closure
May 02, 2011 by Victoria Noe
“Closure: the sense of finality and coming to terms with an experience, felt or experienced over time.” – Encarta Dictionary“Closure” is a word frequently invoked in grief-related literature. Events are said to bring “closure” to people who grieve: discovery of remains, burial, 1st anniversaries, etc.But the news of the death of Osama bin Laden may only be initially considered closure.Certainly, the death of the most wanted terrorist in the world is a cause for celebration, even not knowing how other terrorist organizations will respond.But for those who lost family or friends on 9/11, there is no closure.Osama bin Laden is dead, but so are their loved ones.Don’t assume everyone is happy and “all right” now. Don’t assume the grieving is...
“Forming Community” – AIDS@30
Apr 28, 2011 by Victoria Noe
The current issue of Chicago’s gay weekly, Windy City Times, includes a guest column I wrote, “Forming Community”.As part of their 9-month “AIDS@30” series, I reflected on my time as a fundraiser in the AIDS community, and what it was like to be a straight woman in a mostly gay environment.You’ll want to bookmark this website, http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/aids.php to read the entire series. If you are of a certain age, you’ll remember a lot. If not, well, you might learn a valuable history lesson or two.
Apr 25, 2011 by Victoria Noe
This month, Windy City Times started a 9-month series on AIDS@30, in conjunction with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.The series began with a timeline that will jog your memory if you’re of a certain age, and surprise you if you aren’t. I found myself reading it, thinking to myself, “I forgot about that” or “I remember him.”You’ll find statistics, photos and remembrances. It has already brought back a lot of memories for me.Publisher Tracy Baim was nice enough to ask me to contribute to the series, and I will post when that guest column appears.Visit the Windy City Times website, www.windycitymediagroup.com, and click on “AIDS@30”.The AIDS epidemic is 30 years old, and sadly, not over yet. Through this series, you’ll...
What Kind of Griever Are You? - Part 2
Apr 20, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Everyone grieves differently.Often, people assume that someone who cries or talks about the person who has died is not handling their grief well. They are encouraged to stop crying, to not dwell on the past. But for that person, that’s how they express their grief. Others are what may be defined as “instrumental” grievers. Rather than express their grief by crying, they are more likely to intellectualize their grief. They want to understand their grief, but they don’t want to talk about it. They want to control their grief, so it doesn’t overwhelm them, or surprise them, or distract them.They may also want to ‘do’ things. They may show up with food for the family, or run errands for them....