Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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The Melody of Friendship

The Melody of Friendship
Apr 15, 2011 by Victoria Noe
When I read Viki’s post, “Do You Need Any Help?”, I immediately thought of my best friend, Judy, who died of breast cancer in 1993 after a five year battle. Viki invited me to do a guest post on what it is like to lose a dear friend. Let me tell you about Judy…Where do I begin to describe a friendship of twenty years; a friendship that endured life’s many tough lessons and trials? The diagnosis of cancer, the rigors of single parenting, the challenges of living in a fast-paced world were all intertwined throughout this friendship. We clung to each other through the maze of self-discoveries, growth, career changes, family milestones, achievements and failures.I didn’t realize I would be...

What Kind of Griever Are You? – Part 1

Apr 14, 2011 by Victoria Noe
There is no one way to grieve.There is no right way to grieve.Everyone experiences grief in different ways.Some people let themselves grieve in a physical way. Some clinicians refer to them as “intuitive” grievers. Another word for this type of griever could be “emotional”. Their grief is on display, not held back.Intuitive grievers express feelings that are intense. Crying is probably the most common expression, and it mirrors how they are feeling. Typically, in our culture, expressing grief in this way is considered a female response, rather than male. That also can imply weakness.Crying is not the only physical manifestation of grief for an emotional griever. They may experience prolonged periods of confusion, inability to concentrate, disorganization, and disorientation. Their...

9/11 - When the Therapists Needed Therapists

9/11 - When the Therapists Needed Therapists
Apr 11, 2011 by Victoria Noe
 "Firefighter Pew" at St. Paul's Chapel, near Ground Zero Karen M. Seeley’s book, Therapy after Terror:  9/11, Psychotherapists, and Mental Health,(Cambridge, UK:  Cambridge University Press, 2008) explores a relatively invisible group of September 11 survivors: therapists.New York City was overwhelmed by the need for mental health professionals to help survivors and witnesses cope with the horror of the attacks. To their credit, many came forward in the city as well as from other parts of the country.  But helping those who grieve after a terror attack presented challenges never before considered.Most of the therapists were “outsiders”. Firefighters, already a tight-knit, closed society, were unwilling to talk to anyone outside of the department (assuming they talked at all). Unless you...

F is for Friends We Grieve

F is for Friends We Grieve
Apr 06, 2011 by Victoria Noe
You would probably be surprised by the number of friends you’ve had in your life: friends from your neighborhood, your school, your church, your first job, your sports team, your theatre group. But life being what it is, you lose touch, maybe geographically separated, maybe just slipping away because your interests changed.Then you go to a reunion, or a party. You skim the alumni newsletter. And you discover they’ve died.Your first reaction may be shock, but your second reaction is likely to be a memory. It might be a memory that now seemed eerie. It might also be a silly or funny memory.My husband and I sat in Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, three days after 9/11, for an inter-faith...

D is for “Disenfranchised”

D is for “Disenfranchised”
Apr 04, 2011 by Victoria Noe
I’m on an A to Z blog challenge, and today is the 4th day of the challenge. That explains the pithy title. ;)I didn’t know when I decided to write my book that there was such a thing as “disenfranchised grief”, coined by Dr. Kenneth Doka of the College of New Rochelle, in 1989. In the 2002 revision of his Disenfranchised Grief: Recognizing Hidden Sorrow, Dr. Doka observes how the grief a friend experiences can be dismissed:“Often there is no recognized role in which mourners can assert the right to mourn and thus receive such support.  Grief may have to remain private.  Though they may have experienced an intense loss, they may not be given time off from work, have...

"Longtime Companion"

"Longtime Companion"
Apr 01, 2011 by Victoria Noe
For many people – certainly anyone under 40 – it feels like AIDS has been around forever. With the spread of the disease around the world, the media focus has actually dimmed. Rarely do you hear of celebrities dying of AIDS. With the development of the so-called AIDS “cocktail” of drugs, those infected can live much longer, healthier lives than anyone could’ve predicted 30 years ago.On July 3, 1981, a story appeared in the New York Times on Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a rare cancer affecting gay men. It is on that day that the film Longtime Companion opens.The first feature-length film addressing the AIDS epidemic, Longtime Companion follows a group of friends through the 80’s. We see the denial, the ignorance,...

"Do You Need Any Help?"

"Do You Need Any Help?"
Mar 30, 2011 by Victoria Noe
When someone dies, most people have good intentions. They want to mourn, they want to remember. And they want to help those who are grieving themselves.Often, when you grieve the death of a friend, the focus is on their family. They are the “primary” mourners. They are the ones who get the most sympathy. And families do deserve sympathy and support.The standard question is, “do you need any help?” Now that’s not always the best thing to ask. For one, it puts the burden on the griever to identify and express that need. They may not be thinking clearly enough to do that. It can also come off as insincere, as if the person asking is hoping the answer is no.Even...

Back to Ground Zero

Mar 28, 2011 by Victoria Noe
I’ve been to Ground Zero three times.The first time was in 2005, a few weeks after my father died. I didn’t like being there, probably because I was already mourning more than I believed possible. We went down and looked through the chain-link fence. Banners listing the names of the victims covered large sections of the fence. When you looked down, you saw a massive hole in the ground, a few trucks and not much else. The enormity of it was so much more dramatic than seeing it on TV. My classmate’s name was right there, in alphabetical order. I felt like it was a pilgrimage, of sorts.I went back in October, 2009, when I first started on my book....

When A Celebrity Dies

When A Celebrity Dies
Mar 26, 2011 by Victoria Noe
I recently posted on the phenomenon of grieving when a celebrity dies. We grieve because we have a connection to them, just as we do with our real friends. “I felt like I knew them” is a familiar explanation.Aurora Winter’s article, Elizabeth Taylor: 5 Tips for Overcoming Grief When a Celebrity Dies, looks at this from the perspective of actress and AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor’s recent death. She has some thought-provoking tips for using a celebrity’s death as a catalyst for your own life. Read her article at:  http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Elizabeth-Taylor-5-Tips-for-prnews-1227967326.html?x=0&.v=1Monday – Back at Ground ZeroWednesday – “Do You Need Any Help?”Friday – Longtime Companion

Memorializing Your Friends – StoryCorps

Memorializing Your Friends – StoryCorps
Mar 23, 2011 by Victoria Noe
One of the disadvantages some people feel when a friend dies is the inability to pay tribute to their friend.  You might give a gift in their memory to their favorite charity or cause.But we want the world to know how important and special this friend was to us; why the world is a little sadder without them.So there are blogs – not unlike this one – and Facebook tribute pages.  But another wonderful way to honor your friends is through StoryCorps.StoryCorps is an organization dedicated “to providing Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.”I first learned about StoryCorps in conjunction with the September 11 Initiative, preserving stories...

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Mar 22, 2011 by Victoria Noe
The AIDS Memorial in Hudson River Park, New York City, perfectly expresses the themes of my books.

The Gift of Saying Goodbye

Mar 21, 2011 by Victoria Noe
My husband and I recently visited a friend who’s dying. His partner has been keeping a group of us up to date on their situation, and on a Saturday afternoon, we were able to visit them. We weren’t alone; two other friends had flown into Chicago from Dallas and Seattle.Our friend looks awful (so does his partner), but for a few minutes, the old energy and sense of humor were back. We all had a lovely visit, though brief.Yes, it was uncomfortable, and yes, it was undeniably sad.But what a gift it was, too.The gift was not just that we were able to see him, probably for the last time.The gift was that we were allowed to see him.Too often,...

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Mar 21, 2011 by Victoria Noe
The final book in the Friend Grief series—now available—explores the challenges faced by men who grieve their friends and how they found ways to honor the men and women who shaped their lives.

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Mar 20, 2011 by Victoria Noe
I’ve been a writer most of my life, but didn’t admit it until 2009.

But when a concussion ended my sales career, I decided to finally keep a promise to a dying friend to write a book.

"Let's Be Careful Out There"

"Let's Be Careful Out There"
Mar 18, 2011 by Victoria Noe
At the end of the morning roll call on the 80’s hit Hill Street Blues, Phil would always remind his comrades “let’s be careful out there.”They were cops. They knew every day could be their last.Not everyone lives that consciously, certainly not when they’re younger.But the truth of the matter is, the world is a dangerous place. Stuff happens, no matter where you live.We can eat healthy foods, exercise every day, do all the things that are supposed to “guarantee” a long life and still not reach that goal.This photo is from my 40th high school reunion. Each rose represents one girl from my class of 122 who died; there are 9. One died our senior year, the most recent,...

Everybody's Talking About Surprises

Mar 16, 2011 by Victoria Noe
I really, really, really don’t like surprises.  I guess I’m too much of a control freak to accept the fact that there really are things in this world I can’t plan for or anticipate.Today is WOW! (Women On Writing) blogging day about surprises, so welcome to all who are visiting from the tour!When it comes to our friends dying, honestly, how is that something you can accept?  Plan for?  Anticipate?Several days after 9/11, I waited in front of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago for my husband to join me for the inter-faith service.  I called home for messages and was stunned to hear a friend’s voice, sobbing.  I’d known her since 1966 and could not remember her ever crying, but...

Spreading the News Online

Spreading the News Online
Mar 14, 2011 by Victoria Noe
I have a friend who’s dying.  His partner set up a closed Facebook group to keep a group of friends and family up to date. What resulted in the past two weeks is an outpouring of love for both of them.  One friend flew to Chicago from Seattle, another from Dallas.  Others visited, called, posted on the Facebook group page.Visitors can be tiring, especially for someone close to death.  But to be there when he had a burst of energy on Saturday was a true gift.Had it not been for Facebook, it would’ve been much less likely that we would’ve all been informed.  The ease of sending messages and setting up groups or pages means that the caregiver can notify...

9/11 and Cumulative Grief

9/11 and Cumulative Grief
Mar 11, 2011 by Victoria Noe
In six months, we will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.For some people – probably most – 9/11 is something that happened years ago.  The History Channel runs specials periodically, and many books have been written concerning that day.  In truth, a lot of people are tired of hearing about it.Most people weren’t directly affected by the loss of life.  Some people – like me – knew someone who died that day.  But for a select group, the losses they suffered are almost unimaginable.“Therapists treated traders who lost dozens of close friends in the towers, police officers who lost everyone in their unit, firefighters who ‘knew 100 people who were dead,’...

How Others Look at Friendship

Mar 09, 2011 by Victoria Noe
...or perhaps more accurately, how others look at grieving the death of a friend.You may feel alone after a friend has died.  You may have a hard time finding people who understand what you’re going through.  But it’s an experience we will all share some day.Following are quotes from a few people who understand:“A friend who dies, it’s something of you who dies.” – Gustave Flaubert“With every friend who has been taken into the brown bosom of the earth a part of me has been buried there; but their contribution to my being of happiness, strength and understanding remains to sustain me in an altered world.” – Helen Keller“Friends are together when they are separated, they are rich when they...

A Friend You Never Met

A Friend You Never Met
Mar 07, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Where were you when you heard John Lennon died?Princess Diana?Michael Jackson?Celebrity deaths – especially those that are sudden or violent – hold a certain fascination for many people.  The media will be temporarily obsessed with the story.But what can seem unusual is the way some people mourn those celebrities – as if they were a close friend.Why is that?They’ve never met that particular celebrity, even though they may have bought their cd’s or seen their movies or watched their TV show.But they mourn.Jeff Goldblum was a guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and suddenly began to talk about the late Tim Russert, moderator of “Meet the Press”.  Goldblum admitted he was upset for two days, when he heard of Russert’s sudden...