Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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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...

In Memoriam

In Memoriam
Dec 19, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Around the middle of December - and on awards shows throughout the year - various organizations solemnly share their list of prominent people who died in the previous twelve months. Often we forget about someone who died early in the year. We rate the list, using it to gauge just how bad a year it was. Some years the sense of loss is overwhelming. This has been one of those years, and not just for me.

My mother died in March, but I’m not alone in experiencing that kind of grief this year.

There was Peter’s father and Sandra’s mother. John’s mother and Sarah’s mother. Jackie’s father and Fred’s mother. Kathy’s cousin and mother both died within two weeks time.

My husband is...

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...

Remembering the Dead, One Name at a Time

Remembering the Dead, One Name at a Time
Jun 28, 2018 by Victoria Noe
I was watching Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt  the other day. The documentary was made in 1989, when the Quilt was fairly new. It was still small enough - small being a relative term - to be fully displayed on the National Mall. Now the Quilt contains over 48,000 panels, each measuring exactly 3’x6’.

I moved on to a newspaper interview with a woman who helped make her son’s panel. She remarked that every panel, every name, represented not just someone who died from AIDS, but all the people who loved them. That’s true of other memorials.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also in Washington, was controversial when the design was first unveiled. A 21 year old woman, Maya Lin, daughter of...

The Disadvantage of Writing About Grief

The Disadvantage of Writing About Grief
May 09, 2018 by Victoria Noe
                  thegiftofwriting.com

“Well, you write about grief, so this is…”

The woman at my mother’s wake didn’t finish her sentence. It just kind of faded with her shrug. She didn’t quite know how to get out of the hole she’d dug for herself. But I’m pretty sure the ending she was looking for was “easier for you”. I have to admit I didn’t offer her any help.

Many people who write about grief are trained, certified professionals. They’re psychologists, therapists, chaplains, counselors. For some of them, grief was what inspired their careers. The rest of us are not professionally trained. But we all have one thing in common: we experience grief....

"For They Shall Be Comforted"

"For They Shall Be Comforted"
Feb 21, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Beverly Review

When Ron Howard filmed Backdraft in Chicago in 1991, a call went out for extras. The funeral procession at the end of the movie required a couple hundred firefighters in dress uniforms to march down Michigan Avenue. It’s a powerful scene made more powerful by the inclusion of firefighters from around the area who offered their services. In fact, 5,000 volunteered.

So it was no surprise that when Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer was killed last week, his wake and funeral were full of men and women in uniform. The six-hour visitation, at Nativity of Our Lord Church, required a three-hour wait in line for those who came to pay their respects. Most of those people...

When Your Friend's Death is in the Headlines

When Your Friend's Death is in the Headlines
Feb 15, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Cmdr. Paul Bauer

I didn’t listen to the radio in the car as I drove back to Chicago from St. Louis yesterday, so it wasn’t until I turned on the TV that I saw the breaking news. A Chicago police commander had been shot to death downtown, in the state office building. There was something about a suspicious person, a robbery attempt, but no name given.

My husband was preparing for his organization’s annual meeting that evening when he texted, asking if I was home. When I replied that I was, he called to tell me that the officer was the commander he’s worked with for years, Paul Bauer. What had not been the best of days became...

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...

Grief, Loss and The Hallmark Channel

Grief, Loss and The Hallmark Channel
Jan 04, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Normally after a traumatic event I try to make sense of it. After 9/11 I was glued to the TV, watching everything trying to understand what was impossible to understand. But after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando last June that left 49 people dead, I couldn’t watch anything on the news. Not a thing. So I did something I’d never done before:

I watched a Hallmark Channel movie. Actually, I watched a lot of them because there are actually two Hallmark Channels (one is Movies and Mysteries).

There was a certain comfort in the predictability: no violence to speak of. Dead bodies were remarkably intact, no blood or missing limbs. The plots of what were mostly mysteries were easily solved in...

The Year of Grieving

The Year of Grieving
Nov 15, 2016 by Victoria Noe


“I love you for my life, you are a friend of mine, and when my life is over, remember when we were together, we were alone and I was singing this song to you.” - Leon Russell (1942-2016)

 

It's been a hell of a year: Prince. Bowie. Natalie Cole. Alan Rickman. Pat Conroy. Leonard Cohen. Brian Bedford. Tammy Grimes. George Martin. Joe Garagiola. Patty Duke. Muhammad Ali. Gwen Ifill. Elie Wiesel. Gene Wilder. Edward Albee. Arnold Palmer. Robert Vaughn. And that's a partial list. I feel like I've been in mourning since New Year's Day, when Jo Stewart, the leader of my first writing group, died. And I guess that's true. The people on that list weren't friends. I have a letter from one who I dared to...

Why Are We So Hard on Grievers?

Why Are We So Hard on Grievers?
Aug 03, 2016 by Victoria Noe
Most of us don’t grieve in public and frankly, that’s a relief. Anyone in the public eye who has experienced a loss is closely watched for…what? So we – strangers – can judge how they’re handling their grief. Do they cry at the drop of a hat or do they act as if nothing has happened?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I watched both the speech given by Khizr Khan at the Democratic National Convention last week and the reaction from around the country. Perhaps the only thing more impressive was his wife, Ghazala.

I listened to his words, but I watched her. The grief she experienced was obvious in her body language: tense, fragile, struggling for control. She’s...

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...

Publication Day for Friend Grief

Publication Day for Friend Grief
Jul 28, 2015 by Victoria Noe
Today – finally – the latest book in the Friend Grief series is officially available for sale.

Friend Grief in the Workplace: More Than an Empty Cubicle is about the impact of friendships we make at work.

As I’ve said before, it’s a very broad definition of workplace. I listed some of them here. But I’d like to share one of the stories, this one about the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team (in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a lifelong fan – but that’s not why they’re in the book). Here’s how some members of the team chose to pay tribute to their friends and teammates:

When Jason Heyward made the opening day roster for the Atlanta Braves, he was asked to...

Friend Grief in the Workplace

Friend Grief in the Workplace
Jun 09, 2015 by Victoria Noe
If it seems to you like my next book – Friend Grief in the Workplace: More Than an Empty Cubicle - has been in the works forever, well, it feels that way to me, too. I can’t remember when my original publication date was, other than it was 2014. But it’s finally happening, and I’m ready to share some specifics.

The one thing I knew when I started researching and interviewing was that I would use a very broad definition of “workplace”. The majority of people you will meet in my book don't work in an office, much less a cubicle: A Trappist monk and the nun who lived down a winding Kentucky road, united by their vision of a better world. The...

Laurel: A Guest Post by Fred Eberle

Laurel: A Guest Post by Fred Eberle
Mar 25, 2015 by Victoria Noe
Lauren Cronin & Fred EberleI’ve known Fred Eberle since 1989, when I was on staff at Chicago House and he was one of my most dedicated volunteers. He is, without a doubt, one of the most talented, generous, thoughtful men I’ve ever known (he's blushing right now, trust me). I’m so pleased that he agreed to share this story of one of the most important friendships of his life.My friend, Laurel was…a force of nature.  When she entered a room her energy and charisma filled the space. Laurel Cronin was a brilliant actress and director, and when she was onstage it was hard to watch anyone else. It wasn’t that she intentionally pulled focus; she drew it to her. From the...

"You have been - and always shall be - my friend"

"You have been - and always shall be - my friend"
Mar 03, 2015 by Victoria Noe
Nimoy at Phoenix Comicon Unless you live under a rock, you know that actor Leonard Nimoy, the Vulcan first officer Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek series, died at the age of 83. And though he was surrounded by his family when he died, they were not the people the media reached out to first. They were not the people his long-time fans wanted to hear from. They wanted to hear from his friends.   Most of those who were interviewed were former cast-mates on Star Trek, along with others who worked with him in his impressive career on stage, television and film. Many found it challenging to express their grief for a man they counted as their friend for decades.   Not everyone – even celebrities – can...

Friend Grief and…Valentine’s Day?

Friend Grief and…Valentine’s Day?
Feb 10, 2015 by Victoria Noe
Good. I got your attention.Valentine’s Day is certainly not a day we associate with friends. It’s one designed to guilt-trip us into spending lots of money on flowers, candy, dinner, lingerie, etc. to share with a romantic partner. Friends? Not so much.I remember when I was younger, that I hated the time between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. The holidays were all about families, and I was single. The last holiday was the worst, because the expectations were so ridiculously unrealistic. So let’s ignore all the hype and guilt and consider our friends.I don’t know about you, but I found 2014 to be an unusually challenging year. So did a lot of my friends. Relationships, finances, health, or a combination of...

Celebrating Your Friends

Celebrating Your Friends
Jan 09, 2015 by Victoria Noe
There was supposed to be a party today.“I want to make it to 90,” Pierre told me when he was 88. His parents had only lived to their 70s, but others in his family had lived longer.“We should have a party,” I suggested. He liked that idea. I mean, if you’re going to live that long, you deserve a celebration. “You could have dancing girls.”His eyes lit up. He liked that idea, too. We never had a chance to discuss details. Pierre died last January, a short time after his 89th birthday.We don’t always remember our friends on their birthdays. Sometimes we remember them on the day they died. November 22 is the day we remember President John F. Kennedy,...

"All My Friends Are Dead"

"All My Friends Are Dead"
Dec 04, 2014 by Victoria Noe
Pierre on "Combat"Growing up in the 60s, I was, along with my friends, definitely anti-war. I knew guys who served in Vietnam – two who died – but I didn’t agree with the war. It seemed odd to many that one of our favorite TV shows was Combat! It ran from 1962-67, and featured a squad of American soldiers in France after the D-Day invasion. We watched the show because we thought the actors were cute. And my favorite was Pierre Jalbert.Pierre was my “type”: under six feet tall, dark, lean. The French accent didn’t hurt. It was a great, long-distance fantasy…until we met.The night we metIt’s a long story that I won’t get into, but one night in 1984, I...