Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist



Friend Grief

'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

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...

The End. But Not The End.

The End. But Not The End.
Apr 26, 2016 by Victoria Noe
There it is. Yeah, the cover of the final book in the Friend Grief series.

Do I like it? Oh, yeah, I like it a lot. My cover designer (Rebecca Swift) never steers me wrong.

But's the last one. It's the last book in the series. I'm about to hit "send" on the final edits, so next week it goes to the formatter. I had planned on it coming out this month, but the universe conspired against me. It'll be out in early May.

The end of the series does not mean the end of my weekly blog. Not by a long shot. I still have plenty to say about grieving the death of a friend. And to be honest, it's not...

Working on Two Books at Once

Working on Two Books at Once
Apr 19, 2016 by Victoria Noe

(Or, "Who Thought That Was a Good Idea?")

Someone asked me recently what I was working on, and after I answered, he said “You’re working on two books at once?” I’m not sure if he was impressed or horrified.

I am working on two books. I have been for months. And while they are very different, I’m not sure I’d recommend it to any of my writer friends. It’s exhausting. The only saving grace, I think, is that I have not been doing the same thing with each book.

The first one – Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes – is in the final stages. I’ve been deep in the editing for the past few weeks, deleting and adding...

"He's A Man"

"He's A Man"
Feb 23, 2016 by Victoria Noe

Vice President Joe Biden has long been known as a man who wears his heart on his sleeve. Sometimes that results in public statements that are uncensored. You rarely get the feeling with him that his speeches are canned, rehearsed, carefully vetted. That can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your politics.

Author Mark Liebenow wrote recently about why Biden’s public grief about his son was important. Of the five reasons he gave, the first was of great interest to me:

“He’s a man.”

The final book in the Friend Grief series comes out in April. Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes will introduce you to a lot of guys like Joe Biden. They are a wide...

How to Remember Them

How to Remember Them
Feb 16, 2016 by Victoria Noe
It’s award season. There’s one thing that every show includes (besides the pre-show red carpet extravaganza).

The “In Memoriam” segment.

Some people take that as their cue to get up and go the bathroom or get more snacks. Others are glued to the TV, wincing as each familiar face appears on the screen.

If you feel like this segment is getting longer, you’re not alone. So many celebrities – legends in the arts communities – died in the past year. Everyone from Louis Jourdan to Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey to Leslie Gore, in what feels like a never-ending list.

That pause in each awards ceremony to honor those who have died is largely uncontroversial. But after the Grammy’s last night, the Twitterverse lit...

A Different Kind of Writer's Block

A Different Kind of Writer's Block
Feb 09, 2016 by Victoria Noe

Most writers lead lives that are shockingly normal. They work at jobs to pay their bills, they carpool, they take care of aging parents, they do their taxes. It’s not surprising that after everyone else is asleep, they sit down at their computer and stare at the screen. They’re exhausted – mentally and physically – too exhausted to think of anything to write that deserves to see the light of day. Classic writer’s block.

I don’t have that kind of problem. My writer’s block is something completely different.

Seven years ago St. Patrick’s Day, I was in a minor fender-bender (an RV rear-ended a jeep that rear-ended me). It happens so often driving in the city that at...

The Show Must Go On

The Show Must Go On
Feb 03, 2016 by Victoria Noe
Coming from a theatre background, I learned early on that ‘the show must go on’. Once I had a severe allergic reaction a few hours before going onstage. I made it through the show, though I couldn’t sing worth a damn. If you watched the amazing live production of Grease that aired Sunday night, you probably heard about Vanessa Hudgens, who played Rizzo: her father died less than 24 hours before the broadcast. She went on as scheduled and the whole show was dedicated to him.

Less than a week after my father died, I was 400 miles away making a presentation at a national conference. I didn’t want to be there. The organizers assured me I didn’t have to be there....

Giving a Eulogy for a Friend

Giving a Eulogy for a Friend
Jan 19, 2016 by Victoria Noe
In the final book in my series – Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes – you’ll meet a man who gave the eulogy for his best friend. Neither man was old. In fact, both were 29. It wasn’t a task anyone expects to be given at that age.

I’m quite a bit older than that but it’s been a while since I spoke at a funeral or memorial service: almost eleven years. So I didn’t expect to be asked to speak at the memorial for my writing group leader, Jo Stewart. I’d already written about her here, a post that her daughter shared on Facebook. That was that, I thought. Then I got the email inviting me to speak. We agreed...

Respecting a Dying Friend's Wishes

Respecting a Dying Friend's Wishes
Jan 13, 2016 by Victoria Noe
David Bowie's final photo by Jeremy King

Unless you were in a cave on Monday, you heard of the unexpected death of David Bowie. Though he wasn’t one of my top ten favorite performers, I respected his talent and unconventional approach to his craft. “Did you like David Bowie?” I was asked. “Which one?” I replied. He was fearless in his artistic pursuits and, as it turned out, his death.

He did something that I’ve discussed here before. I asked several friends if they would tell me if they were dying. Most said they would. Some said absolutely not and refused to elaborate. Surprisingly, no one asked me (that’s a topic for a future post).

It was his decision...

Putting 2015 to Bed

Putting 2015 to Bed
Dec 22, 2015 by Victoria Noe

In the newspaper world, “putting to bed” means finishing something and moving on to the next level. Today is my final blog post of 2015, so I thought it was appropriate to put the year to bed and look ahead, too.

You probably make a list of resolutions each New Year’s, only to realize the list is largely undone by the time Christmas rolls around again. I know that’s true for me. Sometimes we’re overly optimistic; sometimes we’re delusional. And sometimes life just gets in the way.

This year marked a few serious changes of direction, most of them planned and thought-out. I committed to changes in my marketing: increased public speaking and more deliberate involvement in the...

Friend Grief and Men (ACT UP Edition)

Friend Grief and Men (ACT UP Edition)
Dec 15, 2015 by Victoria Noe
Jim Eigo receiving his award from Stephen Spinella

One of the men you’ll meet in the final book of my series – Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes – is Jim Eigo.

When I walked into my first ACT UP/NY meeting almost three years ago, Jim was the guy who waved me over to an empty chair in the circle. That kindness morphed into a friendship I treasure.

He has a long resume, which I’m sure was recounted when he was honored at Treatment Action Group’s (TAG) Research in Action Awards on Sunday night in New York. Playwright, editor, writer, activist: words that cannot convey the depth of his talent and commitment to fighting the epidemic that is now...