Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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To Tell or Not to Tell…That You’re Dying

To Tell or Not to Tell…That You’re Dying
Oct 28, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Many people seem to have had the experience that I described in my last post, "Would You Tell Your Friends That You’re Dying?"An older woman was distressed that to find out about a friend’s death when the Christmas card she sent was returned, stamped “deceased.”Another woman was sworn to secrecy by her family member, who didn’t want her friends to know she was dying. She didn’t want to see “The Look”.A friend of mine refused to accept visitors, and would only talk to a very few friends over the phone.Make no mistake: I respect each and every person’s decision to live their lives as they wish, especially after receiving a diagnosis of impending death. The decision to tell - or...

Would You Tell Your Friends That You’re Dying?

Would You Tell Your Friends That You’re Dying?
Oct 26, 2011 by Victoria Noe
We’ve all done it, unconsciously, and with no malice intended.Perhaps our friend tells us that they’re dying. Perhaps we hear the news elsewhere, and then see the person later.But anyone who’s been seriously ill, or is dying, can tell you that they get “The Look”. You don’t mean to do it. In fact, you might think the expression on your face is one of love and support, successfully hiding the shock and pain you feel inside. Unfortunately, it’s often interpreted as pity.I’ve read stories of people who were dying and kept their diagnosis secret specifically because they didn’t want to see “The Look” on their friends’ faces. I know people who have isolated themselves, refusing visitors, because they don’t want...

"Living in the Material World"

"Living in the Material World"
Oct 24, 2011 by Victoria Noe
A few months ago, I blogged about Paul McCartney’s concert at Wrigley Field and how his tributes to John Lennon and George Harrison were so very different: while the song dedicated to John was full of regret and guilt, the one for George clearly showed the love they felt free to express to one another.HBO has been showing Martin Scorcese’s documentary about George Harrison, “Living in the Material World”. His wife, Olivia, and son, Dhani, spoke fondly and honestly about George. But it was in the words of his friends that you really got a sense of the man: strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures.One friend admitted that it was still difficult for him to talk about George, ten years...

Why Friend Grief is Different - Pt. 2

Why Friend Grief is Different - Pt. 2
Oct 19, 2011 by Victoria Noe
From the outside looking inI have a friend, a dedicated librarian at a public school for special education kids. When I told her about my book, she said she had a story for me.I sat down with her after school, in the back of her library. She told me the story of a friend of hers. They’d been friends for years, had their ups and downs. But nothing prepared her for finding out about her friend’s death months after it happened. The family knew of their friendship, but hadn’t contacted her. The pain she felt was real: not just the death of the friend, but the missed opportunities to set things right, and to properly mourn.Months later, I received an...

Why Friend Grief is Different - Pt.1

Why Friend Grief is Different - Pt.1
Oct 18, 2011 by Victoria Noe
If you have lost a friend - recently or not so recently - you already know. Pick up your local paper on any day, and you will find a section devoted to obituaries. Some are news articles about prominent people in the community or the world at large. Some are standard “death notices” submitted by families through the funeral home.These notices tend to follow a standard format, which includes the surviving family members (sometimes mentioning those who have already died, particularly a spouse). They may list names, or just note the numbers of surviving grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They may list the deceased’s alma mater, career, places they lived, hobbies and charitable causes near and dear to their heart. What they...

Everyone’s Best Friend

Everyone’s Best Friend
Oct 14, 2011 by Victoria Noe
  Steve Daley  “Mourning him would be rather silly. He died too soon, but so do we all. The universe is run idiotically, and its only certain product is sorrow. But there are yet men who, by their generally pleasant spirits, by their dignity and decency, by their extraordinary capacity for making and keeping friends, yet manage to cheat, in some measure, the common destiny of mankind, doomed like the beasts to perish." - H.L. MenckenWe all know people like Steve Daley, who shared this quote with his friend and colleague Mary Schmich. They have lots of friends, but when asked, each one will insist that he made them feel like they were his best friend. In some...

Why Anger and Grief Go Together

Why Anger and Grief Go Together
Oct 12, 2011 by Victoria Noe
 EvilMilk.com My posts on anger and grief - and my guest blog on Memoir Writer's Journey - have brought out some pretty emotional responses.It’s hard to tell, sometimes, just what people reading my blog are thinking. Most posts don’t inspire a lot of comments, either on or off the site. But anger has been one of those topics that had really resonated with people.I think the comment - off-line - that stuck with me was the woman who thanked me for giving her permission to be angry.Imagine: a grown woman who needed a stranger’s permission to feel angry.Why wouldn’t you feel angry if your friend is dead? Yes, of course you’re sad. You feel a hole in your heart...

“50/50”

Oct 10, 2011 by Victoria Noe
“You’ve been sucked into the cancer vortex.”That my friend Delle’s reaction when I told her of my Dad’s diagnosis. She’d been battling cancer herself for almost two years, and knew what was ahead of us.“50/50”  is Will Reiser’s autobiographical film about a 27 year old man whose world is rocked by the discovery of a rare form of cancer.Anyone who’s been through cancer diagnosis and treatment will appreciate the truths in this film.The characters are real and mostly sympathetic:Adam himself, vaguely restless before getting sick, now determined to maintain that everything’s okay. He insists he’s fine, even if it means keeping others at arm’s length.His mother, already caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s, is angry with the cancer and her...

100 Thoughts about Friend Grief

Oct 08, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Today is my 100th blog post. When I started this blog in February, I had one goal: to put a spotlight on the experience of grieving the death of a friend. It appears I’m succeeding.I already knew there were people out there who wanted to tell their stories, or rather, tell the story of a friend who meant the world to them. It’s funny, when you become aware of something, suddenly the whole world is attuned to it. Things you never noticed before are now obvious. So it has been with friend grief. It seems everyone has a story to tell about a friend who died much too soon.Strangers have bared their souls to me, pouring out their frustration and...

Words to Live By from Steve Jobs

Words to Live By from Steve Jobs
Oct 06, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Steve Jobs, the Apple visionary who changed the world, lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on Wednesday.Although Jobs was known as not always the nicest person to work with, his impact on our lives cannot be overstated.By now, you may have seen the video of his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University. He’d been diagnosed the year before, and had successful surgery. He was in remission. But a near-death experience had an effect, even on this impossibly driven CEO.“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be,...

A Lot of Angry Friends Out There

A Lot of Angry Friends Out There
Oct 03, 2011 by Victoria Noe
My posts last week about feeling angry when a friend dies resonated with a lot of people.I had conversations with family, friends, and online “friends” all week. My posts dredged up feelings for many that had been long repressed. Some people took the opportunity to fondly remember a friend. Others reacted as if a scab had been scratched, and indeed it had.Those were the people who had been denied the chance to feel that anger when their friend died, and now, years later, it bubbled up again.You can only hold your breath so long, and eventually you have to breathe again. So it is with repressing emotions. Eventually they decide they’ve been constrained long enough.Those who are overwhelmed by the...

Making Sense of Surviving Your Friends

Making Sense of Surviving Your Friends
Sep 30, 2011 by Victoria Noe
In keeping with what turned out to be a week of considering anger’s role in grief, I thought I’d turn to one of the triggers for anger: survivor guilt.The research for my book has provided a glimpse into some typically closed societies, among them military and firefighters. Both are groups charged with keeping us safe, both are groups whose jobs are so dangerous they know every day is potentially their last.The people they work with - men and women - are a tight-knit group. They consider themselves a family; Band of Brothers was not an accidental title. Because of the nature of their close living conditions, and the hazards of their work, they must have complete trust in each other....

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
Sep 26, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Delle ChatmanI was watching the news the other night and the reporter asked why the buildings in downtown Chicago had green lights at the top. Well, they’re not green; they’re teal, the color adopted by the ovarian cancer movement.Ovarian cancer - like melanoma - is a silent killer. The symptoms are subtle and easily dismissed: bloating, painful intercourse, sense of urgency or increased frequency for urination, back pain, constipation, fatigue, unusual weight gain, sleepless nights, abdominal pain, headaches, difficult menstrual cycles, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly. I bet that any woman reading this is thinking “uh-oh...” And most of the time, these symptoms are not a cause for serious concern.There is no Pap smear or mammogram for detection. There...

Waiting for a Friend’s Funeral

Sep 23, 2011 by Victoria Noe
One of the stark realities of being the friend of someone who has died is that you’re not in charge.When a family member dies, one or more relatives are designated to carry out specific tasks. They may simply follow the wishes of the deceased, or may be forced to make choices about everything from burial clothes to readings.They may ask friends of their loved one to participate, typically as a pallbearer. Friends may be asked to give a eulogy or share photos for a display at the funeral home.Typically, friends are simply expected to support the family, whose grief is assumed to be more important. They have no decision-making power.Because of that lack of control and lack of participation -...

One Way to Avoid Regrets: International Friendship Day

One Way to Avoid Regrets: International Friendship Day
Jul 20, 2011 by Victoria Noe
Kristie West’s 30-Day Challenge - http://www.kristiewest.com/ - is all about showing appreciation now for the important people in your life.I started it myself on Monday, and it’s a refreshingly painless way to begin a new (good) habit. Telling your friends what they mean to you has no downside. It also got me thinking again about regrets: about how the grief we feel when our friends die is sometimes compounded by the sadness we feel about what we never did. We never told them how much they meant to us. We never took that trip together. We never…well, you get the idea.An Australian group, Global Friendship, celebrates International Friendship Day on the first Sunday in August, this year on the 7th....

What Else I Learned Writing a Book about Friend Grief

Jul 18, 2011 by Victoria Noe
When I posted last week about what I’ve learned in this now almost two-year book project, I had the feeling I was forgetting something. It took a day, but it finally popped into my head:I forgot to tell what I’ve learned about writing.Last week I concentrated on the grief aspect, the subject matter, the people I interviewed (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But this is my first book, and I’m learning by doing. Some things have come easily; some not so easily.I knew why I was writing the book. In its simplest form, I was keeping a promise to my friend, Delle. What was harder was coming to terms with who was writing the book and what it...

The Myth of Closure - Part 3

The Myth of Closure - Part 3
May 06, 2011 by Victoria Noe
It's been quite a week, hasn't it?I’ve been talking to a lot of people this week about closure, as it applies – or doesn’t – to the death of Osama bin Laden.The word has been bandied about in newspapers, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and every news program on TV. My “research” has gleaned the following observations:1.      Closure does not end grief.2.      Justice does not ultimately equal closure.3.      Those who speak most emphatically about closure tend to be observers to the situation, rather than directly affected.4.      Those who are most directly affected by 9/11 don’t all see bin Laden’s death as closure.5.      Believing there is closure makes people feel better, because they think they will no longer have to witness grief.6.      Closure...

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....

"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,...

"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...