Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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Friend Grief and the Holidays

Friend Grief and the Holidays
Nov 03, 2014 by Victoria Noe
Now that we’re past Halloween, the holidays are upon us. You may not be ready, but they’re coming anyway. For the first time in a long time, I will have my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving. But that was a self-defense decision, as I have an unusual amount of holiday commitments this year.This may be a year in which you’ve lost a friend – or more than one. We tend to think of grieving during the holidays in the context of losing a family member. That’s often the case. It’s been forty years since my uncle died in a car accident less than two weeks before Christmas. There was not much to celebrate that year. Even when a death occurs...

Grieving Your Friend Onstage

Grieving Your Friend Onstage
Jul 18, 2014 by Victoria Noe
capitalfringe.orgIt’s hard for people to express their grief in words. While crying may be acceptable in some settings, it’s not easy to find a setting to discuss your grief. And for young people, who have not experienced a lot of loss, it can be doubly hard.A University of Maryland theatre major worked through the loss of three of his friends in the only way he knew how: onstage.Brendan O’Connell lost three of his friends in a drunk-driving accident in the summer of 2011. One had been his best friend for 15 years, next-door neighbors who grew up together.His grief was compounded by the knowledge that he’d begged off riding with them that night. When he returned to college, he was,...

Should You Send Flowers to a Dying Friend?

Should You Send Flowers to a Dying Friend?
Jul 10, 2014 by Victoria Noe
You know what it’s like.You’ve had friends who were dying and refused visitors. Maybe they were overwhelmed, depressed, scared, determined to face their fate alone. Maybe they’d lost a lot of weight and didn’t want anyone to see them ‘like that’. Maybe they didn’t want to see ‘the look’: the facial expression that they interpret as pity.You’ve had friends who even refused to talk on the phone. Maybe talking was painful or difficult. Maybe their memories were shaky. Maybe they just weren’t prepared to talk about their illness with anyone.Those refusals are their right, although being on the other end hurts.You know your friend is dying – or suspect they are, because information is so sketchy. They’ve set very clear...

Be Careful What You Wish For

Be Careful What You Wish For
Jun 27, 2014 by Victoria Noe
I’ve written before about a conversation with some friends, where we discussed our willingness to share news of a serious illness. One of us was already open about her health challenges. Another insisted she would share news with her friends. The other two admitted they were unlikely to tell their friends if they were seriously ill, even the ones sitting at the table.I have several friends who are very open about their health. I don’t think they share that kind of news with everyone. But ours are friendships that are several decades long. We’ve known each other longer than any of our marriages. There’s trust.But even people who would be uncomfortable sharing their own health news with their closest friends...

Share Your Friend Grief Story

Share Your Friend Grief Story
Jun 23, 2014 by Victoria Noe
Believe it or not, the final two books in the Friend Grief series will be published this fall. I’m looking for additional stories for both books. Do you have a story that will fit one of them?Workplace griefThe next book is titled Friend Grief in the Workplace: More Than an Empty Cubicle. The stories in it are about people coping with the death of a co-worker who was also a friend. Don’t let the title throw you off, though: I have a pretty broad definition of workplace. There are already stories of friends who worked together at a coffeehouse, a TV studio, a newspaper, a firehouse. Maybe you’re an actor or dancer, a server or bartender, a medical professional or...

Be My Guest on Friend Grief

Be My Guest on Friend Grief
May 08, 2014 by Victoria Noe
James Montgomery FlaggIn addition to interviewing people for my books, from time to time, I invite people to share their experience grieving the death of a friend. Now is one of those times.Oh, you’d like to, but you’re not a professional writer? Don’t let that hold you back! Would you feel more comfortable simply answering a series of questions? We can do that!In general, here are the requirements:The experience you describe must be related to the death of a friend. They don’t have to be a close friend, nor does the loss need to be recent. It just has to be about a friend – not a family member or pet.If you choose to write it yourself, I’d like something...

"The Living Memories Project"

"The Living Memories Project"
May 05, 2014 by Victoria Noe
I’ve interviewed and learned about a lot of people who grieve the death of a friend. The circumstances vary. The way the grief presents itself varies, too. But one thing is universal: they fear their friend will be forgotten. And they do what they can – in ways that are large and small – to keep that friend’s memory alive.I’ve included those ways in my books, a way to end each one on an uplifting note. In fact, the final installment in the Friend Grief series will be a little like this beautiful new book.The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last, by Meryl Ain, Arthur M. Fischman and Stewart Ain, introduces us to people who have found ways to remember...

Friend Grief and Medics

Friend Grief and Medics
Apr 01, 2014 by Victoria Noe
Conlan Carter as Doc on "Combat!"Imagine you work in an emergency room. You’re an orderly, maybe – no rank in the pecking order. You might be the only one there to help, or you might have help, but not from a doctor or nurse – there aren’t any. It’s all on you.Every day – in bursts of activity that last for hours – your workplace is filled with patients. They’re screaming and panicky or very, very still. Some are missing legs or eyes; others have horrific head wounds. The floors are covered with blood and bandages and random pieces of flesh.You’re trying to be in three places at once; responding to whichever patient you think can be stabilized and moved...

Another Celebrity “Friend” Dies

Another Celebrity “Friend” Dies
Feb 26, 2014 by Victoria Noe
suntimes.comThere’s been a lot on the news, on the internet, in the papers the past 48 hours about the death of writer/director/actor Harold Ramis; even more here in Chicago, because he was one of “us”.Again – as we saw recently in the case of Philip Seymour Hoffman – people are sharing their grief as if he were a close personal friend.And again, others are asking “Why?”Why do we mourn the death of someone we’ve never met?Why do we feel as if we’ve lost someone who was a part of our lives?Why do we act as if they were our friend?Certainly, the internet and social media like Twitter and Facebook have enabled millions to share their thoughts and feelings with the world....

Friend Grief - Guilt vs. Regret

Friend Grief - Guilt vs. Regret
Feb 18, 2014 by Victoria Noe
Guilt:responsibility for a crime or for doing something bad or wrong; a bad feeling caused by knowing or thinking that you have done something bad or wrong. Regret:to mourn the loss or death of; to miss very much; to be very sorry for.(Definitions courtesy of Merriam-Webster Dictionary) Often when a friend dies, we feel overwhelmed by what might have been. There are good memories to comfort us, stories we can share with other friends. But often – too often – the negative feelings overshadow everything else. And we feel guilty.Or do we? There are certainly times when guilt is an accurate response to the news that a friend has died. If you promised to call/visit, and then blew them off...

Anger, Condemnation and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Feb 06, 2014 by Victoria Noe
As I work on the next book in my series, Friend Grief and the Military: Band of Friends, I’m immersed in stories of survivor guilt. Men and women are haunted for years about what they see as their failure to prevent the death of their friend, even if their friend died from suicide. Rarely is there a situation where that guilt is logically justified, but that doesn’t stop it from tearing people apart.Lately, the news is full of the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from an apparent heroin overdose. I’ve heard very little from his friends in terms of survivor guilt. What I have heard should disturb us all.“He didn’t love his kids enough to stop using.”“Celebrities think nothing...

Random Thoughts on Friend Grief

Jan 26, 2014 by Victoria Noe
Last week, there was a horrific crash on I-94 near Michigan City, Indiana. Four dozen vehicles – including 18 semis – were involved in the accident caused by icy roads and whiteout conditions. Three people died.A story that came out today was about one of those who died. His family was notified by someone at the coroner’s office who recognized him when the body was delivered.Now and then we hear stories of first responders who arrive at the scene of a tragedy, only to find that they know a victim. This was someone who wasn’t there, but I imagine the shock of recognition was just as great.As I research the next book on the military, I hear stories about troops...

Being Loyal to a Dead Friend

Being Loyal to a Dead Friend
Jan 10, 2014 by Victoria Noe
Yesterday I was watching a little French film called Delicacy, starring one of my favorite actresses, Audrey Tautou. She plays a young woman whose world is turned upside down when her husband, Francois, is killed suddenly. She throws herself into her work, so she doesn’t have to feel.But after several years, a most unlikely co-worker develops feelings for her. One night he winds up at her apartment, where a small party is taking place. All of the people there were friends with her husband, and they don’t respond well to this new man’s presence. “This is the first time they’ve seen me with anyone,” she explains.Maybe you’ve been one of those friends. The spouse/partner of a deceased friend has found...

What Do You Miss The Most?

What Do You Miss The Most?
Aug 12, 2013 by Victoria Noe
Delle's scarfOn Saturday I went to Halsted Street Days, a street festival in the heart of Chicago’s gay community. I’d been there many times over the years, and have watched it grow more mainstream: Walmart and Marriott had booths.But as I walked through the crowds, past the bars and my favorite Chinese restaurant, I began to think of friends long-gone. There were many, not all of them from the time in my life when I was involved in the AIDS community. And when I thought of them, there always seemed to be one thing that immediately came to mind. I miss Mary Ellen’s laugh: always loud and unrestrained, occasionally embarrassing but always sincere.I miss Steve’s work ethic and child-like...

What Could Be Worse Than A Friend’s Death?

What Could Be Worse Than A Friend’s Death?
Jul 25, 2013 by Victoria Noe
Surviving. Of course we survive. We wouldn’t be here to grieve our friends if we weren’t alive. Sometimes the depth of that grief takes us by surprise, which is one of the reasons why I started this blog and my books.But when I started writing about grieving the death of a friend, I didn’t expect to find that survivor guilt plays such a huge role in the lives of many people.While researching the second book in my series, Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends, I learned that one of the biggest issues for long-time HIV+ men is survivor guilt. Like me, they lost a lot of friends: dozens, even hundreds. But because of luck or...

Evanston's First Death Cafe

Evanston's First Death Cafe
Jul 02, 2013 by Victoria Noe
Last fall, I co-hosted the first Death Café in Chicago.              Death…what??? A Death Café is an informal, non-therapeutic opportunity for people to come together and discuss topics surrounding death and grief. The objective of this movement is "To increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives".Begun in Switzerland, it spread to the UK and the US. Since 2011, over 1,000 people of all ages have attended a Death Café. Our next Death Café will be held Monday, July 15 at Curt’s Café in Evanston, Illinois. It’s open to anyone with questions about death and grief, because no one has all the answers.A Death Café offers you the opportunity to...

Running - or Walking - to Remember Your Friend

Running - or Walking - to Remember Your Friend
Apr 30, 2013 by Victoria Noe
On Sunday I participated in the Our House“Run for Hope”. I didn’t actually run; I walked 2.7 miles. Our House is a terrific grief support center in West Los Angeles. Their work with adults and children is important and life-changing. I was glad to support their event, and my friend, Fredda Wasserman, who works for them.Everyone who walked or ran got a t-shirt. When you registered, you had the option of personalizing your shirt so everyone would know who you were honoring. I opted not to: I couldn’t decide on only one person.As I walked the route, I made note of why people were there. “I’m running for…” the backs of their t-shirts read, with a name, relationship...

When Grief Goes On and On

When Grief Goes On and On
Mar 02, 2013 by Victoria Noe
Not all veterans are menI recently visited the Westside VA Medical Center in Los Angeles and spoke to people in their palliative care division. These are professionals who counsel veterans of all ages. I learned a lot from them, and frankly, not much of it was good. We talked about survivor guilt and grief, and how they are factors in post-deployment mental health issues (PTSD, substance abuse, suicide).My research lately has focused on recent vets, and the suicide epidemic affecting active duty troops. But I learned that grief for comrades – and complicating guilt – lasts for decades.One person I spoke to works with Vietnam and WW2 vets. Both aging populations, as they near the end of their lives...

Stepping Back from Friend Grieving

Stepping Back from Friend Grieving
Jan 22, 2013 by Victoria Noe
123rf.comI’ve written about this before, but I thought this was a good time to revisit the topic of self-care when writing about grief – or any difficult subject. And I believe the same principles apply to those working in hospice, therapists and grief counselors.The fifth book in my series about grieving the death of a friend will be about 9/11. I always knew it would be included, but I deliberately positioned it late in the series. My blog posts about that day have been difficult to write. It’s overwhelming at times to even think about it. So I gather research, read books, and fill up a shelf in my bookcase. And I walk away. Eventually, I’ll have to take a...

What Do You Miss the Most?

What Do You Miss the Most?
Jan 18, 2013 by Victoria Noe
When you think about a friend who has died, what do you miss the most? Maybe you went to school together, and you miss passing notes in class.Maybe you worked together, and you miss getting to know each other over shared projects.Maybe you were neighbors, and you miss knowing they were right there next door, a safety net and comforting presence.Maybe you traveled together, and you miss exploring, getting lost and having adventures only the two of you could possibly appreciate.Maybe you only knew them online, and they died before you had the chance to meet them face to face.Maybe you hadn’t seen them in years – decades, even – and wonder now why you didn’t make the effort...