Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist




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...

Grieving a Friend After Another Midterm Election

Grieving a Friend After Another Midterm Election
Nov 07, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Delle Chatman

Twelve years ago today was a midterm election. The Democrats won both houses of Congress, as well as a majority of governorships and state legislatures. It was also the day my friend, Delle, died.

I knew it could happen any time. Her brother Gregory had emailed me that he was writing her obituary. She’d said her goodbyes and was surrounded by those she loved. Those who loved her comprised a much larger group, one too large to fit into her lakeside condo or even the ballroom of any downtown hotel.

I turned off my computer earlier than usual that evening, eager to watch the election returns, needing the distraction. So it was the next morning when I...

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....

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...

What's Your Word of the Year?

What's Your Word of the Year?
Jan 17, 2018 by Victoria Noe

A lot of friends of mine have decided to pick a word as their theme, their mantra for 2018. Some have chosen interesting words like ‘fearless’ or ‘joy’. Mary Schmich, in the Chicago Tribune, shared some of her readers’ choices. For a while, the whole thing struck me as silly.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, though I am fond of to-do lists. I made a list of goals for my writing this year. I will probably fall short, but that’s okay. I’ll be happy if I only meet half of them because that will mean that I’m working smarter than I did last year.

Having said that, the idea of picking one word for my mantra started...

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...

Not My Time

Not My Time
Nov 09, 2017 by Victoria Noe

I returned to the little hotel I’m staying at late afternoon on Halloween. Just as I walked in, an alert chimed. Before I could read it, the phone rang. It was my daughter, in London. That was odd. Since she left in September for grad school we only talked at prearranged times. When I answered, she was crying.  It took a couple minutes to figure out that she’d seen the alert before I did, though I was only a few miles away from what happened.

It was the terrorist attack in lower Manhattan, within sight of the 9/11 Memorial. That morning I’d chatted with someone from an organization that will be featured in my book. We discussed...

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...

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 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...

World AIDS Day - And A Big Announcement

World AIDS Day - And A Big Announcement
Dec 01, 2015 by Victoria Noe
Bus shelter poster, 1991

Dec. 1, 1988. I was in London, at a performance of The Secret of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke. At the curtain call, Brett made a speech about that being the first World AIDS Day. The ushers passed around collection buckets for donations to AIDS service organizations in London. What a concept, I thought: the whole world thinking about AIDS.

Over the years I’ve spent World AIDS Day conducting fundraising events, attending religious services, discussing issues. Tonight I’m leading a conversation on women and AIDS – how women were treated at the beginning of the epidemic and where we are now - at Women & Children First Bookstore in Chicago.

Today is also...

Why This Writer is Thankful

Why This Writer is Thankful
Nov 24, 2015 by Victoria Noe
Washington Square Park

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and for the first time, I’m spending it in New York. I decided to combine a research trip for my 2017 book Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community with a chance to cross something off my life goals list (sounds better than bucket list, doesn’t it?). So on Thursday morning, I’ll be watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person with my family. That opportunity has me thinking about what else I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving, related to my writing.




Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room, NYPL

I’m grateful for research librarians. I’ve always loved school and public librarians, but research librarians...

That's What Friends Are For

That's What Friends Are For
Nov 17, 2015 by Victoria Noe
My brain is in a fog.

I’ve spent most of the last week trying to process news that I could’ve never anticipated:

  I attended a luncheon where Caitlin Jenner was the speaker. She told why she decided not to commit suicide, when in fact, that would’ve been easier than coming out as transgender. She also spoke of the extremes that the paparazzi will go to, extremes she was able to occasionally thwart by wearing the same clothes several days in a row (they can’t sell photos to the tabloids if she looks the same as the day before). The horrific attacks in Paris. My daughter studied there for four months earlier this year, arriving just 10 days after the Charlie Hebdo attacks....

Birthday Reminders…For Dead Friends

Birthday Reminders…For Dead Friends
Oct 20, 2015 by Victoria Noe
I noticed some time ago that Facebook had added a cute emoji: whenever a friend had a birthday, their name would appear with a little birthday cake next to it. For those times when I forgot a birthday, it seemed like a sweet, non-judgmental reminder (unlike those “Shelly has a birthday today” notifications).

I was making use of that birthday cake reminder to write on someone’s page when I noticed the “upcoming birthdays” suggestion. I have a lot of friends with birthdays in October, so it seemed like a good idea to make sure I didn’t forget anyone. And that’s when I saw it: Dan’s birthday is Thursday.

Dan was a guy I dated in high school, one of the sweetest guys...