Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist





Apr 25, 2011 by Victoria Noe
This month, Windy City Times started a 9-month series on AIDS@30, in conjunction with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.The series began with a timeline that will jog your memory if you’re of a certain age, and surprise you if you aren’t. I found myself reading it, thinking to myself, “I forgot about that” or “I remember him.”You’ll find statistics, photos and remembrances. It has already brought back a lot of memories for me.Publisher Tracy Baim was nice enough to ask me to contribute to the series, and I will post when that guest column appears.Visit the Windy City Times website,, and click on “AIDS@30”.The AIDS epidemic is 30 years old, and sadly, not over yet. Through this series, you’ll...

What Kind of Griever Are You? - Part 2

Apr 20, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Everyone grieves differently.Often, people assume that someone who cries or talks about the person who has died is not handling their grief well. They are encouraged to stop crying, to not dwell on the past. But for that person, that’s how they express their grief.  Others are what may be defined as “instrumental” grievers. Rather than express their grief by crying, they are more likely to intellectualize their grief. They want to understand their grief, but they don’t want to talk about it. They want to control their grief, so it doesn’t overwhelm them, or surprise them, or distract them.They may also want to ‘do’ things. They may show up with food for the family, or run errands for them....

What Kind of Griever Are You? – Part 1

Apr 14, 2011 by Victoria Noe
There is no one way to grieve.There is no right way to grieve.Everyone experiences grief in different ways.Some people let themselves grieve in a physical way. Some clinicians refer to them as “intuitive” grievers. Another word for this type of griever could be “emotional”. Their grief is on display, not held back.Intuitive grievers express feelings that are intense. Crying is probably the most common expression, and it mirrors how they are feeling. Typically, in our culture, expressing grief in this way is considered a female response, rather than male. That also can imply weakness.Crying is not the only physical manifestation of grief for an emotional griever. They may experience prolonged periods of confusion, inability to concentrate, disorganization, and disorientation. Their...

9/11 - When the Therapists Needed Therapists

9/11 - When the Therapists Needed Therapists
Apr 11, 2011 by Victoria Noe
 "Firefighter Pew" at St. Paul's Chapel, near Ground Zero Karen M. Seeley’s book, Therapy after Terror:  9/11, Psychotherapists, and Mental Health,(Cambridge, UK:  Cambridge University Press, 2008) explores a relatively invisible group of September 11 survivors: therapists.New York City was overwhelmed by the need for mental health professionals to help survivors and witnesses cope with the horror of the attacks. To their credit, many came forward in the city as well as from other parts of the country.  But helping those who grieve after a terror attack presented challenges never before considered.Most of the therapists were “outsiders”. Firefighters, already a tight-knit, closed society, were unwilling to talk to anyone outside of the department (assuming they talked at all). Unless you...

F is for Friends We Grieve

F is for Friends We Grieve
Apr 06, 2011 by Victoria Noe
You would probably be surprised by the number of friends you’ve had in your life: friends from your neighborhood, your school, your church, your first job, your sports team, your theatre group. But life being what it is, you lose touch, maybe geographically separated, maybe just slipping away because your interests changed.Then you go to a reunion, or a party. You skim the alumni newsletter. And you discover they’ve died.Your first reaction may be shock, but your second reaction is likely to be a memory. It might be a memory that now seemed eerie. It might also be a silly or funny memory.My husband and I sat in Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, three days after 9/11, for an inter-faith...

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...

"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....

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,...

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...

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,...

"The Concert for George" Live Streaming 2/25

"The Concert for George" Live Streaming 2/25
Feb 24, 2011 by Victoria Noe
This Friday, February 25 would have been George Harrison's 68th birthday.  In my post The Concert for George, I shared the story of how this concert was created: as a way for his friends to honor George and to mourn their loss.On his birthday, "The Concert for George" will livestream on his website for all to enjoy.Feel free to sing along!

30 Years of AIDS - Part 1

30 Years of AIDS - Part 1
Feb 23, 2011 by Victoria Noe
I have two degrees in theatre. In the 1980’s I was working professionally in the Chicago theatre community.  There was no way to escape AIDS.By the end of the decade, I could’ve covered the walls of my one-bedroom apartment with the AIDS Quilt panels of people I knew.  I’d left the theatre to be a professional fundraiser, mostly working with AIDS organizations.Most were men, though not all.  Some were classmates from college, or colleagues from one production or another.  Some had lived at one of the AIDS residential programs I worked for.  Some had been volunteers of mine; one was my assistant.I remember picking up a coffee-table book about the Names Project, and staring at the cover: one of the...

Types of Grievers

Feb 21, 2011 by Victoria Noe
What kind of griever are you?One of the hardest things for some people to understand is that everyone grieves in a different way.  Throwing yourself back into your “normal” routine may be perfect for some people, but the worst possible thing for others.  I’m not even talking about gender.  The differences I’m talking about today are personality differences.  Of course, gender, ethnicity, even age may have an influence on these behaviors.  But that’s what they are:  responses to a situation.  Personality and behavioral assessments are used in business every day: Enneagram, Meyers-Briggs, DISC.  In Dr. Kenneth Doka’s book, Disenfranchised Grief, he offers a description of different types of grievers.  You may see yourself and others in these descriptions:1.      Intuitive:  Some...

"My Name is Alex"

"My Name is Alex"
Feb 18, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Family Ties was a successful sitcom in that ran on CBS from 1982-1989  A family led by parents who’d been hippies in the ‘60’s included one son, a conservative Republican, played by Michael J. Fox.Arguably its most famous story is “My Name is Alex” from the fifth season.  Performed live in two back-to-back episodes, the second with no commercial breaks, it opens with the Keaton parents and their two older children returning from the funeral of Alex’ best friend, Greg.  The parents are concerned about their son’s reaction to what has happened.  Indeed, Alex is a model of forced cheerfulness.When he’s alone, Greg appears to him – a real, physical presence, cracking jokes about how being dead is a great...