Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist




'Send a Card to a Friend Day' is Every Day

'Send a Card to a Friend Day' is Every Day
Feb 16, 2024 by Victoria Noe

“My friends have overlooked my shortcomings, seen me through some dark days, and brightened up the rest of them. I'm glad to have them; I'm honored to have them; I'm lucky to have them.”


That’s a quote from one of my favorite movies, Murphy’s Romance. It’s from the speech given by Murphy, played by James Garner, at his surprise 60th birthday party. I was a lot younger than that when the movie came out in 1985. I’m older than that now. But I still feel the same way.

We just celebrated Valentine’s Day, which is preceded now by Galentine’s Day, to give friends their own day without the romantic pressure of February 14. Earlier this month, I promoted a holiday I found out about not long ago: 'Send A Card to a Friend Day' on February 7. The only requirement was that it be a physical card, sent via snail mail: emails or text messages don’t count.

"Do You Guys Ever Think About Dying?"

"Do You Guys Ever Think About Dying?"
Sep 29, 2023 by Victoria Noe

"Do you guys ever think about dying?"

For many people, this was the most shocking line in the blockbuster movie, Barbie. Up until then, the movie was as frothy as an egg cream. But then, the movie took a turn. Part of the shock was that it was not a line you ever hear in a comedy. And part of the shock was that it stopped us in our tracks, maybe taking you out of the movie itself.

If COVID accomplished anything, other than killing over a million people just in the US, it forced us to confront death and dying. We are a society that is averse to discussing or facing the one constant in all of our lives - death. In 2021, at the height of the pandemic, over 54% of Americans admitted they did not have a will.

Book Review: "The Celebrants" by Steven Rowley

Book Review: "The Celebrants" by Steven Rowley
Jun 30, 2023 by Victoria Noe

As a rule, I don’t pay a lot of attention to celebrity book clubs. I mean, I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to have one of my books featured, but it’s rare that they showcase a book that interests me. I also don’t read a lot of fiction, which certainly sets me apart from just about anyone. My research, my writing, my interests are centered in nonfiction.

So I was surprised to find myself buying the June choice of Jenna’s Book Club on the Today Show, The Celebrants. One of the first descriptions of the book compared it to one of my favorite movies, The Big Chill. I can understand the impulse: a group of college friends are forever shaped by the suicide of one member. But aside from the lack of an obvious musical soundtrack, I think that’s where the similarity ends. If it’s evocative of any movie for me, it’s Peter’s Friends.

And Then There Were Three: S, N and Y

And Then There Were Three: S, N and Y
Jan 21, 2023 by Victoria Noe

I had a blog post all ready, but then the news popped up in my Facebook feed. News that was both expected and a shock: David Crosby died.

From time to time over the years I’ve written about the experience of grieving a celebrity, someone you’ve admired and loved but never met. Some people are taken aback by the depth of the grief they feel, and that’s understandable. They’re grieving for someone they’ve only known from a distance. So they wonder why they feel that loss so deeply.

The easy answer is that the celebrity represented an important part of your life. Maybe their music was playing while you were in bed with someone you loved. Maybe their TV show was “must see TV” with your Mom. Maybe watching them perform in person was something you shared with your closest friends. All of that could be true for people now grieving David Crosby. But there’s a deeper reason for me. 

My 2nd Annual 'Not an End of Year Review'

My 2nd Annual 'Not an End of Year Review'
Dec 11, 2022 by Victoria Noe

I looked back at the end of year blog post I wrote last December. It was optimistic, bordering on delusional at times. But then, I had no idea what this year would bring.

  • A few months ago I decided to put aside my work on turning Fag Hags into an online course. The idea came to me early in the pandemic, and made sense at the time. But as 2022 dragged on, it just felt like a burden. My enthusiasm was gone. I still think it’s a good idea; just not right now.

  • I applied for a couple of opportunities that I did not get, but at least I tried. I also created a few opportunities that worked well.

Those Were the Days, My Friend

Those Were the Days, My Friend
Jun 20, 2022 by Victoria Noe

I graduated from Nerinx Hall, a Catholic girls high school in Webster Groves, Missouri, run by the Sisters of Loretto, in 1970. That means my 50th reunion was in 2020. Except COVID-19 had other ideas. That first year, it seemed like a small sacrifice that was disappointing but not tragic. In an effort to support the seniors who had much better reasons to be disappointed - no prom or graduation ceremony -  we wrote letters of encouragement to them. Heidi Keibler Stevens wrote about that project in the Chicago Tribune 

Last year, we were beginning to get vaccinated, but the school wasn’t hosting large gatherings, so we put off the reunion another year. At the beginning of this month, we finally met. And a song that came out when we were seniors kept popping into my head: 

Those were the days, my friend,
We thought they’d never end.
We’d sing and dance forever and a day.
We’d live the life we choose,
We’d fight and never lose,
For we were young and sure to have our way.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back (not a typo)

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back (not a typo)
May 24, 2022 by Victoria Noe

My last book - Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community - took a lot longer to write than I expected. It wasn’t because I had writer’s block, or that my research was hard to compile. I had two major setbacks that I could not have predicted.

I started on the book in earnest in the fall of 2015. The first year of working on it was a whirlwind: interviewing women, doing deep dives into little-known corners of the HIV/AIDS community, revisiting those dark early days of the epidemic. I had so much help, from two small crowdfunding campaigns and incredible leads from friends and strangers alike. People were excited about the book and I hadn’t written a word.


This is Not A Year-End Review of 2021

This is Not A Year-End Review of 2021
Dec 22, 2021 by Victoria Noe

I’m kind of tired of those year-end review articles and blog posts.

I’ve always considered Labor Day the start of a new year. That’s when school starts, and in the performing arts, when the new season begins. Other than changing calendars and getting ready to do taxes, I guess living on a school year timeline still rules my life. That’s why I decided I wanted to take this opportunity to look forward to 2022, not back to 2021.

One skill I’ve improved the past two years is the willingness to pivot. I’m not perfect at this: there are still times I rage against changing plans. But flexibility is more important than ever, and that’s why I’ve made plans for 2022 (and beyond) that are fairly easy to adapt. What’s in the works, you ask?

Grieving Friends During a Pandemic

Grieving Friends During a Pandemic
Apr 14, 2021 by Victoria Noe

When I first started working on the Friend Grief series, I Googled ‘grieving the death of a friend’. I went past the normal first page of responses, to check out the first hundred. Many of the responses dealt with how to support a friend who’s grieving; important, but not what I was looking for. In the end, there were less than ten that actually addressed the experience of grieving the death of a friend. There were more that addressed grieving the death of a pet.

My writing has always been a niche. People have written memoirs about the death of a friend, but other than a textbook, my books were pretty unusual.

 Last fall, when I was deciding whether to rework that series, I took a hard look at what was going on around me. Early in the pandemic, people had urged me to add a book to the series, one about losing friends to COVID. I resisted: as far as I was concerned, the series was finished. And frankly, early on, the stories I heard were just too similar to warrant a book. 

By September, that changed.

Warning: Grief Anniversary Ahead

Warning: Grief Anniversary Ahead
Mar 09, 2021 by Victoria Noe

This time it wasn’t Facebook Memories that reminded me. It was my friend, Ken. 

A year ago, the world was experiencing a devastating and profound change. Our way of life was about to be altered in ways no one could have predicted. A year ago today, I arrived in New York City for the beginning of a four-week East Coast trip. I had book signings scheduled in several cities. I had an advocacy conference to attend in Washington. I had lunch and dinner dates set with friends, along with book-related meetings to discuss future events. 

When I left Chicago, I told my husband I wasn’t sure when I would be back. It depended on how serious all of this turned out to be. My trip lasted only six days. And though I ate indoors in NYC several times, when I got back I refused to eat inside a restaurant. In fact, I’ve only done that once in the past year. The anxiety I felt in that almost deserted restaurant wasn’t worth it.

Making Plans for 2021: A Leap of Faith

Making Plans for 2021: A Leap of Faith
Jan 05, 2021 by Victoria Noe
If I learned anything in 2020, it was to be flexible. None of my plans for the year happened the way I thought they would. In fact, most of those plans evaporated in a series of heartbreaking emails on March 11. So, like many of you, I had to reimagine my writing business. The truth is that I hadn't set long-term goals; 6-12 months was as long-term as it got. That's on me. I had to ask myself some tough questions about my future, questions that took a few months to answer.

The bottom line was that I wanted to diversify my writing and writing business. I didn't want to be overly dependent on any one activity, whether it was public events or book sales. And that meant I had to learn new skills and upgrade the ones I already had.

Remembering Absent Friends

Remembering Absent Friends
Nov 01, 2019 by Victoria Noe
It’s that time of year. The time of year when death and grief seem to be everywhere.

Yesterday was Halloween, when children and adults dress in costume, many as ghosts and skeletons. We sit in cemeteries at night, waiting for ghostly apparitions, or maybe just the Great Pumpkin.

Today is All Saints’ Day, when we remember the saints and their importance in church tradition.

Tomorrow is All Souls’ Day, when we reflect on the lives of those we loved.

Day of the Dead.

Guy Fawkes Day.

Lots of loss for one week, isn’t it?

Once again, I’m sharing information on a unique festival taking place the first week of November in Scotland: To Absent Friends.

Scotland has a tradition of storytelling, especially at this time of the year....

When Friend Grief Hits Home

When Friend Grief Hits Home
Oct 10, 2019 by Victoria Noe
There have been a lot of important stories in the news lately. So it was easy to miss a small story in late July.

Betsy Ebeling was a suburban Chicago woman whose death was noted because of who her best friend was: Hillary Rodham Clinton. Though the obituary made clear that she was loved and admired by everyone who met her, the friendship that began in 6th grade was the one that defined her in the public eye.

A few hours after this story broke, while I was making dinner, my phone chimed with an incoming text message. It was from one of my oldest and dearest friends. The text was about his health and was not good news. 

The details are not...

To Absent Friends

To Absent Friends
Nov 01, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Death and grieving occupy a very different place in society in the United Kingdom.

The first hospice was founded in a suburb of London in 1967. Bernard Crettaz hosted the first “Death Café” in Neuchatel, Switzerland in 2004, but the idea took off when Jon Underwood held one in his London home. In his words, the purpose is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’. I’ve hosted several myself in the Chicago area and can attest to the power of releasing the stigma of talking about death.

I’m not sure where I first heard someone offer “to absent friends” as a toast. It might’ve been one of those 1960s WWII...

You Can't Hurry Grief

You Can't Hurry Grief
Sep 12, 2018 by Victoria Noe
For some reason, a song made popular by both the Supremes and Phil Collins popped into my head: “You Can’t Hurry Love”.


I remember mama said, "you can't hurry love

No, you'll just have to wait"

She said, "love don't come easy

But it's a game of give and take"

You can't hurry love

No, you'll just have to wait

Just trust in a good time

No matter how long it takes.


It felt pretty obvious that the same thing applies to grief.

We grieve over many things: the death of someone we loved, the loss of a job or a home, the end of a wonderful experience, the breakup of a relationship. We grieve for the obvious reason that we loved that person or that time in our life....

Is Everyone Grieving or Is It Just Me?

Is Everyone Grieving or Is It Just Me?
Aug 01, 2018 by Victoria Noe
It started early last year, almost from New Year's Day.

Friends on Facebook posted news of the death of a parent or a sibling or a friend. And while I didn’t usually know the person who died, I found myself affected.

“Another one?” I’d find myself thinking when I logged online. This was much more than the stereotypical ‘death comes in threes’ that we can debate another time. This was every week. I stopped counting how many friends lost a parent last year, something that spilled over into this year. Since my own mother died in March, there have been more, including one this week.

You might say, “Well, we’re at that age.” And you wouldn’t be wrong. Statistically, people my age...

Grief and Depression

Grief and Depression
Jun 06, 2018 by Victoria Noe
My late father used to say that there should be a psychiatrist on every corner and they should be free.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

To have easy access to mental health support and not have to worry about co-pays, referrals or limits on coverage?

Damn right it would be nice.

But would it be enough?

The death of handbag designer Kate Spade shocked her friends and fans. A privileged, talented, successful woman living on Park Avenue who suffered from depression and certainly was able to obtain quality mental health support died by suicide.

As with most of these deaths, we’ll never know what led her to that decision. While the family knew of her struggles, many friends are left recounting past conversations, searching for clues...

A Winter Olympics Story within a Story

A Winter Olympics Story within a Story
Feb 06, 2018 by Victoria Noe

People love surprises. Well, I don’t, but that’s a different story. The kind of surprises I like are an unexpected twist in the plot of a movie or book. Sometimes the surprise is shocking, sometimes funny. And sometimes, it’s life-changing.

The Winter Olympics begin soon in PyeongChang, South Korea. Like most big sports events, human interest stories about the athletes are featured in the media. It’s a way of making a connection with these talented (mostly) young people at the height of their careers. Once you feel like you ‘know’ them, you’re more likely to tune in to their events and maybe others as well.

This morning I was reading an article about an athlete already in the...

Dead Friends in My Address Book

Dead Friends in My Address Book
Jan 24, 2018 by Victoria Noe
My address book

I have an address book. A real, honest-to-God address book. I’m not sure when I got it, but it’s at least 25 years old. There are tabs for each letter of the alphabet. Each entry includes lines for name, address and phone number. And it’s a mess. Sometimes I correct addresses and phone numbers, sometimes I just tear off the return address from their latest Christmas card and stick it in the front.

Recently, I had reason to go through my mother’s address book. She’s almost 89, and I was a bit surprised that she updated hers in a way I didn’t: she noted when a friend died.

I’ve gone through mine - mostly during the...

Old Friends

Old Friends
Jan 11, 2018 by Victoria Noe
The title of this week’s blog post is one of my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs. I was a teenager when the song was released, and the old friends sitting on a park bench were not people I related to. They were...old. They were slow-moving. Nothing like me or my friends.

But time has a way of changing things. There are friends in my life who I’ve known for decades. Some have stayed in my life continuously. Others - and I think this is more typical - have moved in and out. But as I get older, those friends are the ones who have moved closer.

I’ve watched my 88 year old mother’s world shrinking as friends and family members die. But...