Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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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....

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...

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...

Men Need a Language to Grieve

Men Need a Language to Grieve
Apr 12, 2016 by Victoria Noe
The late Steve Montador, whose suicide inspired his friend.

In her book, When Men Grieve: Why Men Grieve Differently & How You Can Help, Dr. Elizabeth Levang suggests that men lack a language for grief. Literally.

I’m old enough to remember when Jackie Kennedy was criticized for not crying in public after her husband’s assassination. Women are expected to cry, wail, talk about their loss. She didn’t, and her behavior was looked at as unfeeling. That she was recuperating from the trauma of seeing her husband shot dead in front of her was not necessarily a good excuse. Her insistence on soldiering on, keeping commitments, and doing everything with remarkable self-control and grace was not the type of...

Daddy's Friends

Daddy's Friends
Jun 16, 2015 by Victoria Noe
Our dance at my wedding

I’ve written before about my father’s friends. But today is ten years since he died, and I’ve been thinking more about men’s friendships.

I remember those men when I was growing up: loud, sometimes profane, argumentative and fun. I was born in the 50’s; I still call then “Mister”. I never felt comfortable calling them by their first names.

You know how it is with the generation older than you: they’ve always been around and you assume they always will be. But, of course, that’s not true.

Daddy was the first in his group to die, a few weeks before his 77th birthday. I don’t know how much they talked about his illness when I...

Death Café – There’s a First Time for Everything

Death Café – There’s a First Time for Everything
Oct 16, 2012 by Victoria Noe
Last Tuesday evening, I co-hosted the first Death Café in Chicago. A phenomenon that began in Switzerland and spread to London, a Death Café provides a safe, non-judgmental and non-therapeutic setting for people to come together and talk about death and grief.Our group was all men (except me, lurking on the edge). Although the seven men did talk about friends – and even animals – there happened to be an unusual situation: one man’s mother was actively dying. As befitting a supportive atmosphere, most of the conversations had to do with family dynamics and relationships. The feelings associated with grief are common, no matter the relationship to the person who died: sadness, guilt, anger, regret, gratitude. All of them were...

Friend Grief in 140 Characters (2 of 2)

Friend Grief in 140 Characters (2 of 2)
Aug 03, 2012 by Victoria Noe
twitter.com“Have you ever seen a funeral procession go past and felt the urge to shout abuse? Perhaps something mild such as ‘I’ve never heard of him!’ or ‘He was rubbish!’. No, me either. In June, Shane Richmond, Head of (Editorial) Technology for The Telegraph, called for civility on Twitter when it comes to grieving. We may not hear about a close friend’s death on Twitter, but if we spend any time in the Twitterverse we’ll definitely see breaking news about the death of someone in the public eye: Amy Winehouse, Gore Vidal, Adam Yauch, Nora Ephron: we probably never met them, and may not have known their work. But the news went out on Twitter for the world to see.I’m...

Friend Grief in 140 Characters

Friend Grief in 140 Characters
Jul 31, 2012 by Victoria Noe
twitter.comThe Twitterverse doesn’t miss much: political gaffes, celebrity gossip, shameless self-promotion. There are writers who swear by the discipline needed to express themselves within the 140-character limit. You want breaking news – not tape-delayed, like our Olympics coverage? Log onto Twitter. That said, is it the best place to grieve?I’m not talking about the incredible hospice programs, writers, therapists and other professionals who tweet information about programs to help people work through their grief.And I’m not talking about those who tweet death notices of famous people.I’m talking about people who run to Twitter to express their grief.Twitter is a community, though a virtual one, like this blog. And let’s face it: it’s often easier to express our feelings online...

Changing Your Focus After Losing a Friend

Changing Your Focus After Losing a Friend
Jun 29, 2012 by Victoria Noe
You probably went through – or are going through – a very dark period of time after your friend died. Maybe you felt guilt or regret or rage or just a heavy, heavy sadness.For some people a light bulb goes off.You can call it a wake-up call, a sign from God, a slap in the face. But sometimes it takes the death of a friend to get you moving in a different direction.It seems to happen most when the friend is your age or younger. You see the lost potential of their life, and it makes you look at yours: potential and life.You may have been vaguely restless before all this happened. You may have been quite content with...

Little Ways to Remember Your Friend

Little Ways to Remember Your Friend
Jun 28, 2012 by Victoria Noe
Some of the people profiled here in Friend Grief have done big, impressive things after their friend died. Maybe they founded a charity or made big changes in their own lives. Not everyone can do something big and expensive. Not everyone wants to. And often, it’s the little things that count.Here are a few ideas of things you can do to remember your friend: -Visit their grave, or have flowers sent there on a day that was special only to the two of you.-If a memorial Facebook page was set up for them, post a comment, just to say you’re thinking about them.-Play a song that reminds you of them.-Go someplace you used to go together. Don’t be surprised...

How Do You Honor Your Friend?

How Do You Honor Your Friend?
Jun 22, 2012 by Victoria Noe
ehow.comFor the next few posts, I’m going to look at the ways some people have honored a friend who has died. In many ways, this blog is a way for me to honor a friend. Before she died, I promised my friend, Delle Chatman, that I’d write a book about what people go through when their friends die. She was enthusiastic and supportive, as always. It took almost 3 years to finally get going, but later this summer, I’ll be self-publishing a small e-book, My Best Friend Died and No One Gives a Damn. The bigger book is still in progress, though it’s getting close. She’s taken over my life, changing my career path in a very unexpected way....

"Tell Me About Your Friend"

"Tell Me About Your Friend"
Jun 13, 2012 by Victoria Noe
stecchinonyc.comThis is something I shared when I first started this blog early last year. The conference is long over, and we've made a triumphant return visit to Stecchino's since then. But the advice remains solid, especially when it comes to men grieving their friends:We were having dinner at Stecchino’s on 9th Avenue in New York, a lively group of eight who were attending the Writer’s Digest Conference. With the agent Pitch Slam behind us, the tension of the past two days was finally wearing off, aided by wine, laughter and crab cakes.I don’t remember what we were talking about. But suddenly George turned to me and said very matter-of-factly, “my best friend died at 29. It changed...

What Do You Grieve When You Grieve Your Friend?

What Do You Grieve When You Grieve Your Friend?
Jun 08, 2012 by Victoria Noe
Serenading people on line in Central ParkThat was not a stupid question.The simplest, most basic answer is that you grieve that they are physically gone from this world. Whether you believe in heaven or reincarnation or another consciousness after death, you still mourn their loss.But what else do you grieve?Maybe you found out about their death much later, so you missed the funeral. Maybe you two weren’t speaking, and so were never able to settle your differences and part one last time as friends.Maybe you didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.Maybe you never told them you loved them.Maybe you were too embarrassed to tell them how they changed your life.Maybe you didn’t get a chance to help them when...

Are “Virtual” Friends Worth Grieving?

Are “Virtual” Friends Worth Grieving?
May 23, 2012 by Victoria Noe
Do you know your relatives? I don’t mean the ones you’re in close contact with, like immediate family. I mean all of the people you know you’re related to, even the ones you only see at weddings and funerals: the ones whose opening line is always “you don’t remember me, do you?”You probably do, even if you haven’t seen them face to face in decades.Same with friends: some you see or talk to every day, others you only see every 10 years at class reunions. My point is that you’ve seen them, met them face-to-face. That’s how you became friends in the first place.But our lives are different now. We have “virtual” friends, people who may live on the...

Types of Grievers - Part 4

Types of Grievers - Part 4
May 19, 2012 by Victoria Noe
Let's face it: everyone has an opinion, not just about other things but about our own behavior. Imagine feeling you're not allowed to grieve honestly. It happens more often than you think, in this fourth and final look at types of grievers.“You need to be strong for...”“You need to move on.”“Why haven’t you cried?”We all grieve in our own way. But the fourth and final type of griever described here is the type no one wants to be. This griever can’t or won’t express their grief the way that feels most natural to them. Generally speaking, in our culture, men are expected to be the strong ones when dealing with grief, and women are expected to willingly express their feelings.Men...

Types of Grievers - Part 3

Types of Grievers - Part 3
May 18, 2012 by Victoria Noe
visualphotos.comThis type of griever is, I have to admit, more like me. It's hard for me to not multi-task, even when grieving. I bet you know someone like this.Some people channel their grief into action: running errands, organizing, bringing food to the family.Some people are very open with their feelings, talking and crying when they feel the needThen there are people who do both.I envy them.Those are people who feel comfortable expressing their feelings, even if it’s uncomfortable to others. They cry in front of us, not because they expect us to make everything better, but because they need to cry. When they’re not crying – and sometimes even if they are – they keep busy. They organize the gathering...

Types of Grievers - Part 2

Types of Grievers - Part 2
May 17, 2012 by Victoria Noe
visualphotos.comI'm old enough to remember when Jacqueline Kennedy was criticized for being "cold" at her husband's funeral. People thought she should've been more obviously emotional. Today we look at a type of grieving that our society has forced on men: instrumental.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...

Types of Grievers - Part 1

Types of Grievers - Part 1
May 16, 2012 by Victoria Noe
A year ago I wrote a series of posts about types of grievers, and I thought it was time to revisit that topic. The first type is "intuitive", and we'll take a look at others types over the next few days.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...

Calling All Girlfriends!

Calling All Girlfriends!
May 11, 2012 by Victoria Noe
vintagesusie&wings.comI started out writing my book believing I knew one thing for sure: I’d have no trouble finding women to talk about grieving a friend.And that was true. But, as I’ve written here before, the men surprised me with their willingness not just to talk: sometimes they offered to talk, unsolicited. As a result, I currently have an imbalance of male/female stories in my book.Now I’m looking for more women to interview. I’m particularly looking for women who have grieved a friend (male or female) with the following special circumstances:            You’re a member of a religious community            You’re a first responder or militaryYou channeled your grief into action by supporting a cause that either helped your friend or was otherwise...