Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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Friend Grief

Inspired by a Friend's Death

Inspired by a Friend's Death
Aug 16, 2017 by Victoria Noe
It’s a great feature, isn’t it, when Facebook reminds you of a friend’s birthday? We all get caught up in our daily lives and sometimes we forget, so I’m all for anything that helps.  It didn’t feel so great last week, though, when it reminded me of Jo Stewart’s birthday. Jo died last year. Jo was the leader of my first writing group: poet, creative writing professor, force of nature. The group grew out of a life-story writing class because we got along and didn’t want to stop meeting. It lasted six years, until Penny died. The rest of us didn’t feel like meeting without her. The last time I saw Jo, at a holiday lunch for the second group she...

Facebook and Friend Grief

Facebook and Friend Grief
Aug 02, 2017 by Victoria Noe
They seem to come in waves, don’t they? Sometimes it feels like all your friends are getting married or having babies. Your calendar is filled with shopping, christenings, weddings and showers. And then there are the times when it feels like your friends are all dying.

Facebook has always been a good news/bad news kind of social media site. One day you love it for connecting you with long-lost friends or keeping you up to date on the latest in their lives. Other days you hate it for the annoying humble bragging posts that set your teeth on edge.

So far this summer two friends of mine have died. Both were women I worked with long ago, in two different professions, from...

The People in My Books

The People in My Books
Jul 27, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room - New York Public Library

While writing the Friend Grief series and now while writing Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community, a lot of people have asked how I go about finding the people who wind up in my books.

I wish I could say I had a well thought out plan that follows a logical step-by-step process. But I don’t. I may give the appearance of being super-organized, but most of the time I feel like I’m in the eye of the hurricane.

I’m not going to lie: my least favorite class in grad school was Introduction to Graduate Research. I hated it because it...

How Long Should You Grieve Your Friend?

How Long Should You Grieve Your Friend?
Jun 14, 2017 by Victoria Noe
You know how it is: a conversation, a song, a place triggers a memory of your friend. Your first thought may be "I haven't thought about that in years". Your second - and third and fourth and fifth - thought is about your friend and the hole in your life since they died. We don't do grief well. It's messy and uncomfortable and all too clear a reminder of our own mortality. So we do what most of us do best: we push it aside. We assign time limits - seven days sitting shiva, three days off from work for the death of a parent (probably none for a friend). When those around us don't conform to our desire to return...

Pride and Pulse: One Year Later

Pride and Pulse: One Year Later
Jun 08, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Monday is the first anniversary of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, where 49 people were murdered and 58 others were injured.

The shooting happened during Pride Month, when members of the LGBT community, long driven underground, celebrate their freedom to love.

Pride is rooted in the Stonewall riots, not celebrations. During the plague years of the AIDS epidemic, Pride parades were one of the few opportunities to get the media to focus on the desperation of those times (though the film footage was almost always of the most outrageously dressed participants). In cities across the US, Pride parades included contingents from organizations that could help people get tested and treated. The bonus was always free condoms, tossed by...

Release Day (Again) for Friend Grief and AIDS

Release Day (Again) for Friend Grief and AIDS
May 02, 2017 by Victoria Noe
I checked the calendar, so I know it’s true. It’s been four years since I published Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends. A lot has happened since then.

Some of the most recognizable people in the AIDS community, like Peter Staley and Jim Eigo, have become friends. I’ve attended AIDS conferences and meetings in New York, Chicago and Washington. I joined ACT UP/NY. I wrote freelance articles about the epidemic and won an award for one (2015 Christopher Hewitt Award for Creative Nonfiction). I make presentations about the epidemic and moral injury in long-term survivors. And I made a commitment to another, much longer book.

And though my life changed keeping the promise I made to my friend...

The Grief That Takes You by Surprise

The Grief That Takes You by Surprise
Apr 12, 2017 by Victoria Noe
They seem to come in waves. You go for months, even years, when no one close to you dies. And then, bam: two or three or four in a matter of weeks. I remember a year when everyone I knew seemed to lose a parent, including me. But lately I’ve heard from several people who have lost a best friend.

“I’m angry,” insisted the minister in The Big Chill. “And I don’t know what to do with my anger.” These people feel a lot like that minister.

We expect those older than us – grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles – to die before us. But no one anticipates losing their friends. Some of those losses are normal: as we age, those around...

Five Things I Learned Interviewing People for My Books

Five Things I Learned Interviewing People for My Books
Apr 05, 2017 by Victoria Noe
greenhouse.io

When I started work on the Friend Grief series, I was only sure of one thing: they would be a mix of interviews and research. They would tell the stories of men and women who struggled to deal with the death of a friend; sometimes many friends.

The first time I ever interviewed anyone was in 1976. I was in New York doing research for my master’s degree project, the development of director-choreographers in American musical theatre. I sat in Bob Fosse’s living room near Carnegie Hall and discussed his career. I don’t remember much, though I’m sure my notes are in a box somewhere. But he was gracious with his time, and for that I’ll always...

How Authors Are Rewarded

How Authors Are Rewarded
Mar 01, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Last Saturday I was part of “Path to Published”, a panel discussion put together by Chicago Writers Association. I think I can say that all of us on the panel had a great time talking about our various experiences: self-publishing, traditional and hybrid publishing.

One of the questions has really stuck with me since then. It was one that’s fairly common, one that everyone is asked eventually:

“What’s the most rewarding thing about being a writer?”

There are the obvious things: lots of people buying your books, great reviews, awards, crowds at your book signings. But that’s not what I talked about. My answer was in two parts.

With my Friend Grief series, I knew I had a hard sell. Grief is not a...

Delayed Grief on Facebook

Delayed Grief on Facebook
Feb 15, 2017 by Victoria Noe
how-to-geek

A friend found out recently that an old friend of hers died…a year ago. They’d lost touch, as friends often do. But when she saw a post noting the first anniversary of this man’s passing, she was not prepared.

Sometimes people cannot grieve a friend’s death immediately. Soldiers in combat can’t take the time to grieve in the midst of battle. They have to push their grief aside. Anytime grief is delayed, there’s a chance that it will pop up when least expected.

One of the men I interviewed for Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes was frustrated when the widow of his best friend did not hold a memorial service for almost nine months. He felt adrift,...

'Tis the Season for Writing and Giving

'Tis the Season for Writing and Giving
Nov 30, 2016 by Victoria Noe
It’s that time of year for shopping and digging a little deeper to support worthy causes.

The appeals are relentless: junk mail, phone calls, emails, tweets and Facebook posts. Every day, starting in earnest at Thanksgiving and not letting up until New Year’s Eve. As a former fundraiser, I’ve learned over the years to ignore most of those appeals.

But the truth is, most people really do want to help. And every donation helps.

Early on in the writing of the Friend Grief series, I knew I wanted to designate a charity partner for at least one of the books. I researched organizations, met with a few of their founders. One decision came easily.

The second book –Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of...

Holidays and Friend Grief

Holidays and Friend Grief
Nov 22, 2016 by Victoria Noe
It's been a tough year, as I wrote last week. Many of us lost friends and the holidays are not always kind for those who grieve. So I'm sharing this post from 2012 as a reminder to take care of ourselves and keep our friendships in our hearts:

I hated the holidays – Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day – when I was single and not dating. I felt like it was the annual reminder from the universe that I was alone. Everyone had someone during the holidays except me. At least that’s what it felt like.

It’s hard to lose a friend, whether they were our best friend, a co-worker, a neighbor, the girl whose locker was next to ours. The holidays are...

Friend Grief and Facebook Memories

Friend Grief and Facebook Memories
Oct 12, 2016 by Victoria Noe
If you’ve been on Facebook for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed the daily “Facebook Memories” that pop up.

Your comments, photos and shared posts are resurrected by Facebook every day. I find them mostly fun reminders of where I was and what I was doing a year or two or six ago. I enjoy seeing other people’s memories pop up, too. But sometimes, the reminders are not so pleasant.

Facebook doesn’t discriminate. The reminders can be of natural disasters or violence. They can be of joyous occasions. Sometimes, though, the reminders are bittersweet at best. Because sometimes they remind us of the friends we grieve.

For one friend, a birthday memory he posted a year ago popped up, the memory of...

Honoring Friends in Many Ways

Honoring Friends in Many Ways
Jul 26, 2016 by Victoria Noe
One of the questions many of the people in the Friend Grief books have struggled to answer is, “How do I remember them?” We want to be sure that even for those who never met our friend, that they will somehow appreciate that they walked the earth.

The people I interviewed found many ways to do that: One man helped start a foundation to cover costs related to medical treatment (hotel stays for family members, parking, supplies, etc.). Two women started a nonprofit to help the homeless, continuing their friend's work. One kept a stack of holy cards in his desk, one for each coworker who died on 9/11. One started an organization to help prevent deaths like his friend’s. Some...

Friend Grief Overload

Friend Grief Overload
Jul 12, 2016 by Victoria Noe
For the past month, I’ve been – like many of you reading this – in a near-constant depression. Maybe not a clinical depression, but a feeling of almost unending sadness.

It started with the slaughter at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It wasn't just shocking. I was disturbed by my reaction. I wasn’t alone. Many people – in and out of the LGBT community – were devastated by the horror inflicted on people out for a fun Saturday night.

But it didn’t stop there: Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and the sniper in Dallas. Those weren’t the only shootings. I live in Chicago and almost every news broadcast opens with a tally of the previous day’s gun violence. But I’m not here to talk...

Friend Grief and Orlando - Part 2

Friend Grief and Orlando - Part 2
Jun 22, 2016 by Victoria Noe
thehill.com

As I wrote last week, I had a hard time understanding my feelings when I heard the news of the massacre at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. Unlike my response to 9/11 – to watch TV for hours at a time trying to make sense of it – I understood why this happened. My response, though, was something that felt a lot like flashbacks. That’s because it was.

What I witnessed over the next week was a replay of the best of what I refer to as ‘the bad old days’: the early days of the AIDS epidemic. That was when I saw the real power of friendship.

Then, like now, many people in the LGBT community...

Friend Grief and Orlando

Friend Grief and Orlando
Jun 14, 2016 by Victoria Noe
Like most of you, I woke up Sunday morning to the news of the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. And although the immediate rush to judgment was that it was a terrorist attack carried out by a young Muslim man, the unfolding truth is more complicated.

As I write this, we’re learning that he was not only infuriated by the sight of two men kissing, but he himself had spent time at the nightclub. He may have had a profile on a gay dating app. The facts are still being revealed. We’ll never really know why.

But one fact is certain: a gay nightclub was targeted. A group of people officially hated by most of the major religions and regularly denounced...

Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes

Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes
May 31, 2016 by Victoria Noe
It’s here, finally, the last book in the Friend Grief series.

As I've said before, when I started this journey I believed that men would be difficult interviews. I worried that most of those I interviewed would have to be women. I was wrong on both counts. Tomorrow, June 1, is publication day for Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes.

I wanted to share an excerpt from the book here, but I was conflicted. Should I share the story of the friendship between two Chicago Tribune sports reporters? The three actors? Should I share a little from the chapter I’m most proud of, the one comparing military veterans and long-term survivors in the AIDS community?

In the end, I decided to share the dedication...

Friend Grief and Dying Matters

Friend Grief and Dying Matters
May 10, 2016 by Victoria Noe
“Would you tell me if you were sick?”

We were having one of our occasional lunches in New York, catching up on work and our families. I told him about a conversation I’d had with my best friends from high school: if we were terminally ill, would we share the news with each other?

“I’m not sick,” he insisted, a little horrified that I might think otherwise.

“I didn’t think you were. But would you tell me?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

The stories in the Friend Grief books are all unique, but ultimately fall into two categories: people who were prepared for their friend’s death and those who were not.

Those who had some advance knowledge were not exempt from grief. But they tended to suffer less...

6 Things I Learned Writing the Friend Grief Books

6 Things I Learned Writing the Friend Grief Books
May 03, 2016 by Victoria Noe
         

As the Friend Grief series comes to a close, I started feeling a little pensive. It’s been a remarkable journey I could have never predicted, much less planned. So I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned, one thing for each book from last to first:

Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes. I began interviewing men secure in my sexist view that getting stories out of men would be like pulling teeth. I was wrong. So wrong. Incredibly wrong. None of the men I interviewed clammed up, though a couple were slow to open up. Some wanted to be interviewed. Some wanted to be interviewed a second time. All wanted to share...