Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist



Friend Grief

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: – Back at Ground ZeroWednesday – “Do You Need Any Help?”Friday – Longtime Companion

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,...

"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...

Chuckles the Clown

Chuckles the Clown
Mar 04, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Laughing at funerals is generally frowned upon (Irish wakes notwithstanding).People are expected to act a certain way: maybe not grief-stricken, but at least respectful of those who are and the person who has died.  You get a lot of dirty looks if you’re the only one laughing.In recent years, there has been a movement to make wakes and funerals and memorial services more of a celebration of life.  Laughing – in the context of shared memories – has become appropriate.  Considered by the Chicago Tribune to be the funniest TV comedy episode of all time, "Chuckles Bites the Dust" on The Mary Tyler Moore Show concerned the death of Chuckles the Clown.  Dressed as Peter Peanut, he was trampled by...

Our Parents’ Friends

Mar 02, 2011 by Victoria Noe
In the old Peanuts comic strip, adults were occasionally heard from but not seen.  Now and then you’d see the lower part of a body, but never, ever a face.  The adults were drawn as if at a child’s eye level: feet, legs, hands.When you were growing up, there were adults around you who were friends of your parents.  They were the same kinds of friends you have: people they met at school, at work, in the military.  They shared the same kinds of experiences: growing up, dating, marrying, divorcing, raising children, taking care of aging parents.  They laughed and cried and argued and shared the special moments in their lives.Some of these adults may be as close to you...

"Ask Amy"

Feb 28, 2011 by Victoria Noe
“Ask Amy” is a syndicated advice column written by Amy Dickinson.  You may be familiar with her delightful memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville.In a recent column, a woman wrote about a friend of hers who had died, and was quite lonely at the end.  Long-time friends had abandoned her while she was ill.  The woman writing was distressed by the unnecessary loneliness and isolation her friend experienced.Death is not easy or comfortable or something that our society even finds easy to discuss. We don’t want to talk about it.  We want to avoid the topic as long as possible.  I suppose it’s why we talk in abstract terms of “if something happens to me…”  If???Have you avoided a friend who was dying?  Maybe...

“Why Didn’t You Tell Me?”

Feb 25, 2011 by Victoria Noe
I was going to write about Longtime Companion today, but realized I’d already posted about AIDS this week.  I received an email from a friend the other day.  I’d interviewed her for my book a while back, and she had a painful story about a friend of hers who had died.  They’d lost touch, and when the friend died, she wasn’t notified.  It was months later when she heard the news.Her email was almost unbelievable:  the same thing had happened two more times.  Three friends of hers had died.  Three families had failed to notify her.Now, I haven’t talked to her since I received her email.  She was clearly stunned that it had happened – twice – again.It did, however,...