Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist




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...

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...

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...

Delayed Grief on Facebook

Delayed Grief on Facebook
Feb 15, 2017 by Victoria Noe

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,...

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 Events - August

Friend Grief Events - August
Jul 19, 2016 by Victoria Noe
If you subscribe to my newsletter (and you can do that on the right-hand side of this page), this will be old news. If not, there’s a lot going on:


August 4 – I’m doing a reading and signing of my latest book Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes at Bureau of General Services/Queer Division bookstore, in the LGBT Center in New York. I’m focusing on the most talked-about chapter in the book, comparing military veterans to long-term survivors in the AIDS community. Joining me is fellow ACT UP/NY member Jim Eigo, whose story is included. That book and Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends will be available for purchase.

August 7 – Three of my books (Friend...

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 Grantchester

Friend Grief and Grantchester
Jun 28, 2016 by Victoria Noe

I’m a big fan of British period mysteries, and given the harsh reality of the news the past two weeks, I admit to a bit of escapism.

Grantchester is a traditional mystery series – based on the novels by James Runcie – set in the real-life town of Grantchester in Cambridgeshire eight years after the end of World War II. The stories revolve around the vicar, Sidney Chambers (played by James Norton) and his mate, grumpy police inspector Geordie Keating (played by Robson Green). They are supported by a memorable group of characters – Sidney’s assistant, his housekeeper, the girl-who-got-away, and others. The richness of the characters is what has kept me a fan through its three...

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 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...

To Absent Friends (You Know Who You Are)

To Absent Friends (You Know Who You Are)
Nov 03, 2015 by Victoria Noe

This week, the first week of November, a very special festival is taking place in Scotland called “To Absent Friends…” I suppose it’s no coincidence that the week begins with All Saints Day. But what I quickly realized was that it ends on November 7th, which this year is the 9th anniversary of my friend, Delle Chatman’s death.

The 7th was a Tuesday, election day. I knew she was close to death: earlier that day, her brother was writing her obituary. After dinner, I sat at the dining room table with my laptop open, waiting for the news I dreaded. But I didn’t wait long. Instead I went upstairs to watch the election results. The next morning...

Ghost Friends

Ghost Friends
Sep 22, 2015 by Victoria Noe
Looks like the car I saw.

It happened again.

It’s probably happened to you, too.

I was walking towards the elevators at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC, between sessions at the US Conference on AIDS. For some reason, in the crush of people, one man caught my eye.

I gasped. It was someone I used to work for, except it wasn’t possible: that guy died over twenty years ago.

One of the men I interviewed for my next book, Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes, talked about seeing ghosts. When he walks down certain streets he’s transported back to when his friends lived and worked there, men who have been dead for decades.

The conference felt a little like that anyway....

Straight Women in the AIDS Community

Straight Women in the AIDS Community
Sep 01, 2015 by Victoria Noe
With my assistant, Steve Showalter, at the first Chicago House gala, September, 1990

Next week I head to Washington, DC for the US Conference on AIDS, Sept. 10-13. I’ve never attended it, but it promises to be an intense few days. I’m looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues and making new ones, in part because of what I’m about to share with you.

I’ve already announced the final book in the Friend Grief series – Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes – will be out late this year (or January, depending on how it goes). While I work on that, I’ll be starting another project: bigger, more complex, and loosely related to what I’ve already written. That’s...

When a Coworker Dies

When a Coworker Dies
Aug 25, 2015 by Victoria Noe
Where do you work? In an office? A store? A theatre?

Every workplace has its own culture, its own personality. Some have open floor plans, others a hive of cubicles and offices with closed doors. Some have strict dress codes or time clocks to punch. Others thrive on creative chaos.

But every one of them faces the possibility of a crisis when an employee dies.

How people grieve is individual and personal, so it’s to be expected that there can be conflict when a group of people in a work environment have to deal with a coworker’s death. Every workplace seems to have a few specific personalities.

The Social Director: They organize theme lunches and after-work gatherings. They decorate the office for holidays and...

Anticipating a Friend's Death

Anticipating a Friend's Death
Aug 19, 2015 by Victoria Noe
“Anticipatory grief refers to a grief reaction that occurs before an impending loss.” – Wikipedia

Last week was one of ‘those’ weeks. I don’t know if it was the alignment of the planets, or global warming or what, but I heard an unusual amount of scary news about friends, including:

One of my mom’s oldest friends had kidney surgery.

One of my college friends had heart surgery.

Another friend announced she is starting chemo soon for liver cancer.

As my husband annoyingly reminds me, we’re at that age when the people around us – not just those older – are dying. That doesn’t make me feel better.

In all the examples above, there was reason to be optimistic. By all accounts, the surgeries were successful. The...

Spending Time with Friends After They Die

Spending Time with Friends After They Die
Aug 11, 2015 by Victoria Noe
Marquis de Lafayette, by Francesco-Guiseppe Casanova, New-York Historical Society

I've lost a couple friends who occasionally make their presence known. Pierre died last year, at the age of 89.

In late May, I was excited to be in New York for Book Expo America because it meant I could see the fabulous Hirschfeld Century exhibit on the life and work of Al Hirschfeld at the New-York Historical Society. N-YHS has become one of my favorite places to explore since I did some research there for Friend Grief in the Military: Band of Friends.

Pierre was obsessed with the life of the Marie Joseph Paul Ives Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, the boy general who, at 19, arrived from...

Men, Their Friends, and Grief

Men, Their Friends, and Grief
Jul 22, 2015 by Victoria Noe

Mars and Venus.

We’ve heard a lot over the years about the differences between men and women. Even my mother has a saying: “Men are not like normal people.” It’s easy to be sexist about men, especially when it comes to their emotions.

I learned very early on in my work on the Friend Grief series that I was as much to blame as anyone in having those opinions. In fact, I was proved wrong so dramatically that I wrote a mea culpa for The Good Men Project.

That’s why, as you may remember, I decided that the final book in the Friend Grief series would be about them: Friend Grief and Men: Defying Stereotypes.

The biggest stereotype, of course,...