my coworker says her husband died — but he didn’t

A reader writes:

I have a coworker who mentions her deceased husband fairly frequently in conversation. It’s been several years since he passed away after a protracted illness. (He had lupus, and she says that they knew it was coming for seven years, so he was able to put away money to provide for her.)

Now she has a boyfriend who wants her to stop wearing her engagement ring from her deceased husband. She is adamant about continuing to wear it, albeit on her right hand.

She recently had surgery, and my officemate and I were worried and wanted to text her in the days following her surgery. We had both gotten new phones recently and didn’t have her number handy, so I looked to see whether she had an account on Facebook Messenger. She did, and I noticed that her profile picture had a man in it who was not her current boyfriend. Curious to see whether it was her deceased husband, I clicked the link to view her profile so I could see the larger version of the image.

Curiosity killed the cat, they say.

The man in the picture turned out to be some sports guy she had her picture taken with, so I scrolled down a bit to see whether she had a picture of her deceased husband. Since we’re not Facebook friends, it only took a moment to scroll down a few years. I saw a post that mentioned her husband and saw that he had responded. I clicked his image to see him, you know, to have a mental image when she speaks of him. I wasn’t trying to be intrusive.

When I went to his page, his image had been updated in January. I wondered if my coworker had been updating his image, but a number of people had commented on it — including his current wife!

I must have made a sound of dismay, because my officemate asked me what was up. Without thinking, I shared what I’d discovered. We were both in shock. We wanted desperately to un-know this, but that is impossible. My officemate was especially appalled because he had saved her job a couple of years back by sharing her sad story with our boss.

My officemate started to share the story with another coworker, but I convinced him not to. I don’t want to be responsible for outing her. Maybe she has a serious mental issue, and I don’t want to be insensitive to it.

So now, as my officemate seems about to burst, I’m wondering what I should do. Should I discuss it with her after work sometime? I wouldn’t want to upset her during working hours, and I wouldn’t want it to get out and have people treat her differently.

Ideally, we would just never mention it again and put it out of our minds. However, I don’t know how to react when she inevitably mentions her deceased husband again. I so desperately wish I hadn’t been curious!


I can see why this was really shocking! But I also don’t think it requires any action from you.

Maybe she’s mentally ill. Maybe he’s “dead to her” and this is how she handles it. Maybe he faked his own death and she really thinks he’s dead. We don’t know, and because she’s a coworker — rather than a close friend or family member — we don’t need to know. (We want to know, because this is so surprising and odd, but we don’t actually need to.)

It is absolutely weird and uncomfortable that she brings him up a lot, and tells you stories about his death. And it’s not great that your manager was apparently moved not to fire her after hearing she was widowed. (Give someone space right after a death, yes, but you can’t make long-term employment decisions based on things like who has suffered losses.)

But this isn’t yours to address. You don’t need to fix the situation by making her admit she’s been lying, or by calling her out when she continues to talk about him. And you’re not complicit in her lying if you choose to let her go on talking about him without saying anything.

If this were someone who you were very close to in your personal life, it would be hard to maintain any intimacy while this was happening, and so you’d need to handle that differently. But this is a coworker, and if she wants to spin tall tales about her life and no one’s getting hurt, you get to quietly think that’s incredibly strange, but there’s no imperative for you to act.

When she mentions her deceased husband, I’d stick with neutral responses (“hmmm, that’s too bad,” etc.) and just don’t get drawn in.

The exception to this would be if she were actively trying to use the information at work to get different treatment — to get extra time off, or to get out of undesirable duties, or so forth. In that case, you’d have a harder decision in front of you (and I’d have a harder answer to write — although I think I’d still err on the side of “leave it alone”), but fortunately that doesn’t sound like the case.

{ 622 comments… read them below }

  1. JokeyJules*

    While Alison’s advice to leave it alone is what’s best, I’m really not confident I’d be able to do that for an extended period of time. I hope there is logical reasoning behind it but I’m a bit speechless…

    1. Pollygrammer*

      I’d have a hard time as well. She’s basically lying to everyone’s faces and using that lie to get special treatment.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Except it doesn’t sound like she’s tried to use it for special treatment, at least not based on the letter. The coworker took it upon himself to try to save her job.

        1. JokeyJules*

          yeah, the struggle i would have is just knowing something interesting is going on, being curious, and not able to ask.

          1. EddieSherbert*

            +1 to this. It’s not a reason to do anything about it ;) but I get it and I’d also be curious!

          2. Triple Anon*

            I would struggle to trust her with anything else. It’s such a huge lie, it paints a picture of her as a very dishonest person. However, they overstepped some boundaries to uncover it so they probably have to keep quiet, at least for now.

            1. The Lemon*

              OP discovered this information by seeing pictures on social media. You don’t have an expectation of privacy on social media, almost by definition. What you post there is publicly accessible. So I don’t think OP “overstepped.”

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          There’s a whole song about this, 50 Ways to Say Goodbye. Someone doesn’t want to say they were dumped, so they claim it was a terrible, terrible accident, very tragic, and now they are aloOOoooOOoone… and eventually one of the people they told runs into the ex at the supermarket, contemplating the avocado selection in perfect health. One stupid decision becomes “I could own up to it and be humiliated, or roll with it and figure a meteor strike might make the whole thing moot…”

          1. Wrenn*

            Haha yes!

            I guess because she continues to make it a Thing That She Talks About, instead of just quietly keeping up the farce, makes it super odd to me. And even though the OP doesn’t mention it, I would be willing to believe that she’s been capitalizing on this story. Maybe it’s not on purpose, but having a coworker go to bat for you like that (and letting them) honestly reads as manipulative to me. Perhaps it started innocently, “it’s too humiliated to be dumped, so I’ll say he died” and then the story took on a life of its own and it’s “too big to fail”.

            Still it’s not the OP’s place to do anything about it, but I would stick literally to that. Do nothing. If the OP’s coworker, the one who was allowed to advocate for this woman based on her personal tragedy, wants to make it a Thing, let him. Shrug, be vague yet positive, and don’t engage about it on any level.

            1. Not a Blossom*

              The fact that she keeps talking about it makes me think that she is definitely using it to get something, even if it’s just sympathy from coworkers. If I told a lie that monumental, I wouldn’t even THINK about it for fear of giving something away, let alone talk about it repeatedly.

              1. JokeyJules*

                exactly. I do have a person who is “dead to me”.
                If people ask about their general existence, nope, they don’t exist. If people have heard of their existence and ask, I say they’ve passed and I don’t like to talk about it. If people knew them, I say we haven’t spoken in a decade and I don’t like to talk about it. Then the conversation is over and shouldn’t be discussed again.

                I’m (trying not to) questioning their motives behind mentioning this woman bringing him up in casual conversation…

                1. Anon temporarily*

                  I’ve got one of those too. (My birth mother tried to kill us both when I was a baby, failed on both counts, and I haven’t heard from her since.) Unless you’ve known me for 40+ years, if the topic comes up, she died when I was very young. There’s just no reason to say more.

                  And I assure you, I don’t ever bring up the subject myself…because I don’t want people to feel sad for me, or treat me differently.

                  I’ve been caught in a stupid lie, too. I once broke a mug that my husband was fond of, then claimed I didn’t know where it was…it’s been about five years, and he’s still looking for it. If I’d known it was that important to him, I would’ve just done the grown-up thing and admitted it, but now I’m stuck. And I really, REALLY won’t ever bring up the subject, because I’m still hoping he will forget about it eventually.

                  I don’t think I’m a particularly avoidant personality, I just know the first rule of holes. When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging! Unless, of course, you want other people to feel sorry for you because you’re stuck in a hole…

              2. smoke tree*

                My reaction was the opposite–in the absence of any evidence of a scam, I would assume the coworker is quite troubled. Based on the facts in the letter, she’s not acting like someone who is trying to be deceptive.

              3. Cat Herder*

                If she’s just hoping for sympathy from coworkers, that’s not trying to get something extra at work. It’s kind of pathetic, really; I’d just feel sorry for her or think of it as, the world is full of odd people and here’s one of them.

                Alison’s advice is right. Leave it alone, don’t talk about it at work at all. If your coworker-in-the-know wants to gab about it with you, just say you feel weird about it and don’t want to talk about it any more, and then don’t.

          2. Dizzy*

            There’s a punk song about it, too. “My Girlfriend’s Dead” by the Vandals:

            “I don’t wanna talk about her
            Someone always asks about her
            So I tell them all
            She’s dead.”

            1. darkestred*

              A great song – the Vandals are a great band and provide much needed comedic relief at times!

          3. Specialk9*

            I feel like you added that part about the avocados? (Only because this was one of my running songs and I may have been a little obsessed.)

            1. Rat in the Sugar*

              I think that’s a reference to the music video with David Hasselhoff, since it takes place in a grocery store.

          4. Girl friday*

            I thought you meant ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.’ I think either way it’s easy to see that she’s going through something mental. :)

        3. Drewby80*

          Understanding that she did not use the idea of a deceased spouse for special gain, doesn’t this speak to her integrity? Sure, these two colleagues of hers are harboring a rather convoluted secret, but how are they to trust her judgement or anything of that nature going forward?

          1. Jadelyn*

            While there are definitely many personal things where bad judgment should make you wonder about their professional judgment as well, I’m not sure this is one of them. People get Weird about relationships and divorces and whatnot. I’m on the fence as to whether that necessarily indicates that she’s likely to be habitually untruthful in non-relationship-related areas.

            1. Say What, Now?*

              Yeah, this is a very specific context. If she hasn’t been caught in a lie about other things I’d say that she’s probably got this one zone where she has a weirdness and try to fence it off when thinking about her as a whole.

    2. Sara*

      I would love to say I’d stay out of it, but honestly I’d be like the co-worker, dying to talk about it. My friends outside of work would definitely be getting an earful.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think the “outside of work” part is the key here. Cause, yeah, my friends (not my coworkers) would be getting all of my conspiracy theories.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          My partner and I have spent hours speculating about certain gossipy things and creating all kinds of theories. We don’t discuss it with anyone else. It’s one of the best parts of our relationship and certainly one of the most entertaining.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          The ex DID die, and the guy on Facebook took over his identity as part of an elaborate Burn-Notice-worthy plot…

          1. AKchic*

            Or perhaps the deceased husband is really John Casey (the tv show Chuck) and the new wife is his deep-cover mission spy-wife and they really have no love for each other, they are just working a long-term mission?
            Don’t blow their cover. Don’t blow this mission. America is depending on you.

            Don’t forget to shop at Buy More.

      2. Rey*

        I had a coworker who kept referring to her boyfriend, and at some point I figured out that he didn’t know that he was her boyfriend. Remember that line from He’s Just Not That Into You, “I’d refer to him as my husband to random people like my dental hygienist”? Tbh, that coworker was dysfunctional in lots of other ways too.

          1. Travelling alone*

            Not necessarily. I travel alone all the time, and I have someone whom I refer to as my partner if anyone creepy asks. In my case it’s a composite of a few friends (not one in particular, because that feels odd on my part), although there is one person that is my default in case I get asked detailed questions, so that I don’t stumble on imagining an answer. So it’s possible that the person doesn’t actually know a lot about their ‘boyfriend’ and doesn’t need to stalk them in order to label them as such.

            Mind you, in any context that is weird behaviour.

            1. Dawbs*

              One of my coworkers has imaginary children and she doesn’t work with me. She works a2nd job that’s tipped job and the clientele tips better to married with kids.

              I have fed her appropriate kid story fodder, because she can’t un- create this cover to her regulares now.

          2. Rey*

            This was a couple years ago. If I remember correctly, they lived in the same apartment complex and ran in the same friend group. All but one other person in the office was married, so she might have felt pressure to not be single. She constantly overshared with everyone about everything (literally nothing was off limits), and I think she embellished most of those stories. My favorite claim about the “boyfriend” is when another girl “stole” him. I remember calling my sister to rant that “SHE DIDN’T STEAL YOUR BOYFRIEND! HE NEVER KNEW HE WAS YOUR BOYFRIEND!” I suspected that story about the stolen boyfriend was her way of neatly wrapping up the story line.

              1. Specialk9*

                Seriously. That is a deeply unsettling person. Like that character that a chick lit book tried to sell as quitky but is really just unhinged.

  2. Naomi*

    Is it possible that this coworker has been married more than once, and has both a dead husband and a live ex-husband?

      1. boo bot*

        That was my first thought. Which is surprising, because usually my first thought would have been something about vampires.

      2. Specialk9*

        So she talks about dead 1st husband, but not live 2nd husband, about whose photo she commented a few months ago? She’s been talking about dead husband for years, and wearing his ring.

        Something is very weird here.

        1. JSPA*

          Other way around, maybe? Live one is the ex first husband (perhaps still a pal), dead one was an intense but short marriage (disease, death, etc)? As people don’t necessarily take nor give up last names on marriage and divorce, can’t use that to judge.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            A friend lost her hubby after just over a year of marriage. Devastated does not describe. She was practically bed-ridden. This friend is a smart, kind person with a good career and many other positives in place. Sometimes life takes a baseball bat to our knees. There is no doubt in my mind that she thought of him every day for years.
            It was quite awhile, a decade maybe, and she found someone who she married.

      1. Seriously?*

        It seems like the most likely possibility is that she couldn’t cope with the idea of being divorced. That possibility would lead me to be very hesitant to bring it up to her unless she is trying to use her status as a widow to gain sympathy and use that to get beneficial treatment. You just don’t know how she will react to being confronted and in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t sound like her lie (if it is one) is hurting anyone.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      If she mentions him frequently, it’s unlikely she’s done so without using his name.

      1. Lizzy May*

        It could be a Tammy #1 and a Tammy #2 situation where someone married two people with the same first name. I think it’s unlikely, but staying out of it and not making assumptions is the smartest move if this doesn’t actually impact work.

        1. Courageous cat*

          Yeah, that’s a stretch – I agree with staying out of it altogether, but I doubt that’s the case.

          1. Daisy*

            One of my friends divorced a Dan and married another one, and another is a young widow whose late husband and new fiance are both Alex – if it’s a common name it’s not that out there. But even if the husband here is called Moonunit or Apple and it’s wildly unlikely the coworker married two, I agree that OP should stay out of it.

            1. Courageous cat*

              I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, by any means, but it’s a stretch solely for the purposes of this letter. Possible, but… not the most likely explanation imo. Especially if she hasn’t mentioned being married multiple times (which I would think would come up at some point if this coworker shares as much as she does).

              1. Courageous cat*

                For those of y’all replying with all the reasons why it could happen – please read this response.

                Yes, of course it *can* happen, but surely another marriage would have come up by now, and for Occam’s razor purposes, I still don’t think that’s necessarily the most likely explanation.

                1. Tau*

                  IDK. I think there’s two issues at hand:

                  1) Don’t just consider probability, consider potential damage times probability. Even if there’s only a very small chance two marriages happened, if they *did* happen and OP assumes her coworker is lying, she has the chance of causing a serious faux pas and permanently ruining her relationship with coworker, among others. There’s no such “oh god social catastrophe” if OP assumes two marriages and coworker is lying. That in and of itself may make it worth erring on the side of assuming coworker is telling the truth.

                  2) Personally, I don’t find Occam’s Razor super convincing here, because the idea that there was only one marriage requires coworker to have been lying about her husband’s death for what sounds like quite some time. To me that is also pretty implausible! Possible, sure, but not obviously “the simplest solution”.

                2. SarahTheEntwife*

                  Given that the goal here is probably to be able to work with this coworker without things being desperately awkward, a coming up with a convoluted but technically possible solution doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

                3. Specialk9*

                  Read down to Engineer Girl’s account of how her partner died, but because a cousin with the same unusual name worked at the same big company and was getting a divorce, someone started a whisper campaign that Engineer Girl was lying about the dead partner.

            2. Jan*

              And my mum’s friend and neighbour was married to a Steve, who died in 2009, and a few years ago she married another Steve!

              Also, to the person who suggested this colleague might be telling everyone the husband is dead because she doesn’t want to admit he left her – this has reminded me I haven’t listened to the Vandals’ ‘My Girlfriend’s Dead’ for a long time! (goes off to YouTube to dig it out…)

              1. Jan*

                I forgot to mention her eldest son was also named after his dad (Steve the first – deceased). Confusing as hell when my mum discusses this family!

              2. TardyTardis*

                My brother-in-law was married to two different women named Linda (and finally settled down with a Lori).

            3. Tuxedo Cat*

              This. In many of my social settings, it seems like there will inevitably be at least two men named John (or some variation of it) or Joe.

          2. MicroManagered*

            My mother has been married 3x and two of them had the same first name. It’s not a super-common name like Mike either.

              1. KarenT*

                I have dated three Matthews, but that is probably because a disproportionate amount of men my age seemed to be named Matthew.

              2. zapateria la bailarina*

                i dated three nathans and an ethan lol

                loved seeing these responses, my family makes fun of me for it all the time

            1. MrsCHX*

              Ha! My ex-fiance and husband have the same last name (dated them sequentially). It was very weird “running into ex” on Facebook (some mutual friends) with my new last name. Oops.

          3. Rainy*

            My dead first husband and my dead partner before him have the same first name.

            And yeah, they’re both really dead.

          4. Engineer Girl*

            I hkas this happen to me. I have a cousin with the same unusual name as me. We are a year apart in age. It turned out we both worked in software for the same large company. We lived in different states. She is divorced, I am not.

            Some busybody got on Facebook and started spreading rumors about my “divorce”. Simply because they assumed we were the same people. And no, this person never talked to me about it. They just told a few other people (gossiped).

            So yes these things happen. Yes people jump to conclusions using incomplete data. Yes, they mess up people’s lives by only telling a few people.

            OP, you don’t know that the person in the picture is her husband. And by telling her coworkers you are now spreading gossip behind her back. And you are making all sorts of assumptions.


            You should probably confess to her what you did. Because the cat was out of the back when you told others.

            1. Hills to Die on*

              So did you confront the person gossiping about you or correct the rumors or anything?

              1. Engineer Girl*

                I never knew who did it. All I could do was tell the one person that mentioned it to me it wasn’t true.

                Such is the insidious nature of gossip and whisper campaigns. You can’t counteract it because you don’t know who has that information. And raising the issue just spreads the lie further.

                My guy had died, which made the gossip worse.

                That’s why spreading half info is so evil.

                OP put her foot in it when she told the coworker.

            2. Specialk9*

              That’s awful. To lose your partner and then have to deal with a whisper campaign in the middle of your grief. I’m so sorry that happened to you.

          5. Observer*

            In some communities, that’s actually extremely common.

            A name like Jose is not super common if you are looking at the general population. But, if you are looking at the Hispanic population, it’s very common.

            I have no idea whether this is the case for this woman, but it’s not necessarily as much of a stretch as it seems at first glance.

          6. SusanIvanova*

            I now have “I’m ‘Enery the Eighth I am” running through my head, and the only thing to do with earworms is share them :)

            “I got married to the widow next door,
            She’s been married seven times before
            And every one was an ‘Enery
            She wouldn’t have a Willie nor a Sam”

            1. Totally Minnie*

              Now that song will be in my head for days and I can’t decide whether I love you or hate you.

            2. I edit everything*

              If we want to really annoy my mother, we’ll sing a snippet of this song, and she’ll be humming it for the next two days.

              1. TardyTardis*

                I wrote a filk of this when I was in junior high (our family was very focused on world news)–

                “I’m Henry the K I am,
                Henery the K I am I am,
                Gonna make a treaty with the country next door–
                We’ve had a treaty seven times before.
                And everyone was a Henery…”

          7. Notsayingwhere I. Live*

            My wife, named Sharon, has an ex who married another Sharon. My Sharon kept her name from that marriage so there are 2 of them with the same name in our small city. The other Sharon worked in the same school my kids went to which totally confused them. It also confuses doctor’s offices all over town.

        2. Zip Silver*

          It’s possible. My brother married a woman who shares a name with our mom, which is still weird to me when we’re all in the same room.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            One of my uncles married a woman who shares a name with one of his sisters.

            1. Anonymosity*

              My brother is married to a woman whose nickname was my nickname for all the years I was growing up, even though our first names are not the same (think Suzanne and Susan but both called Susie). Luckily, I started using my middle name right out of high school, or we’d have two Susie Lastnames.

            2. Anonymeece*

              I have three brothers with very common names, and I contemplated whether or not I could date someone with the same names as them because it would feel so very weird to me. I think I couldn’t do it (exceptions: Chris Evans).

              1. Pebbles*

                And Chris Hemsworth.

                But I’ve never dated a Chris otherwise. A Matt, yes. But that didn’t last long enough to bring home to meet the family, so it wasn’t weird to me.

              2. Peaches*

                I have two cousins, Lisa and Eric, who are siblings. Eric married a woman named Lisa, so for a long time there were two people named “Lisa Lastname” in the family. My cousin, Lisa, eventually got married, so they no longer have the same last name. Boy, did it get confusing though!

                1. roisin54*

                  With my mom’s family there exists a picture of my uncle as a baby, in which he’s being held by my grandfather while my great-grandfather and great-great grandfather stand nearby. They were all named William MiddleName LastName, making my uncle William MiddleName LastName IV.

                  Also, my dad and my brother are William. Mom really likes the name.

                2. Anonymeece*

                  I have a last name that’s typically a first name, and I also have a friend whose first name is said name. I offered to set her up with my brother because I think it would be hilarious if she were Smith Smith* (or J-square, as I suggested).

                  * Not my real last name.

                3. WS*

                  My mother is Anne, my dad is Steven. My mother has only one sibling, a younger brother named Steven; my dad has only one sibling, an older sister named Anne. (Not the actual names but similarly common names). My paternal grandmother was also Anne, my maternal grandmother was Betty Anne.

                4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                  One of my cousins married a man with the same name as her brother. It’s not the most common name, either.

              3. EvilQueenRegina*

                My ex’s old flatmate once turned down a guy on the grounds he shared a first name with one of her brothers.

            3. Coldfeet*

              My sister in law and I have the same name. I didn’t take my husband’s last name partly because I didn’t wish to be confused for her online. Our birthdays are also very close.

            4. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              One of my uncles married a woman with the same name as his sister… Who married a man with the same name as that brother. Luckily one of them goes by a nickname!

            5. CMFDF*

              I know someone who has the same first name as her husband’s sister, which weirds me out because I could have never dated someone who shared a name with my brother.

              But my favorite part is the sister is married to someone with the same name as the brother.

              1. Afiendishthingy*

                That happened in my family too but with a gender swap – Aunt “Pat” was married to Uncle “Chris”
                Uncle Chris had a brother named Pat, who married a woman named Chris

            6. Totally Minnie*

              I have two aunts (on on each side of the family) who have married men with the same name as one of their brothers. I also have a first cousin who shares my last name who married a woman with my first name. It makes family gatherings a little complicated, but we’ve figured it out.

              1. Specialk9*

                “Welcome to my home. Over here is my brother, Ted, and his wife, Melissa, and their children, Anita, Diane and Nick.

                Over here, my brother Tommy, his wife Angie, and their children, Anita, Diane and Nick.

                And here, my brother George, his wife Freda, and their children, Anita, Diane and Nick.

                Taki, Sophie, Kari, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, uh, Nikki.

                And I am Gus.”

                1. Nicole*

                  This is my family. Several Nicks/Nicoles, Stevens, Christos’, Eleni/Helens.

                  We are Greek, and that movie was SO accurate!

          2. K*

            My husband is named after his father and I have a very similar name to his mother with the same shortened name (think Janet and Janice both called Jan). So weird things like that might be more common than we think.

            1. selenejmr*

              My husband is named after his father too. And his mother and I have the same first name. (At least we have different middle names.) And even weirder, my husband’s former mother-in-law had the same first name as his mom and I. Not a very common name either. I’ve known maybe 10 people with my name.

          3. TootsNYC*

            my dad and my husband have the same first name. (I wrote my dad’s name on the first draft of the wedding invitation, because I was used to writing Robert MaidenName but really never wrote Robert FianceName, so the neurons just kicked in…. It amused my FIL.)

            1. Robyn*

              My husband and father have the same name, too, but go by nicknames that are fairly different (think Rich and Dick for Richard), so no confusion there.

              The confusing part is that my husband is named after his dad and my sister-in-law is dating a man of the same name named after HIS dad. Christmas with the in-laws one year meant 4 different adults who all go by the same name.

          4. 2horseygirls*

            Both my grandfathers were Frank (as was my dad), and my grandmothers were Anne and Anna. What are the odds?

            1. BF50*

              My grandfather married two women named Katherine with a middle initial of I. His last name began with an M. The second wives first husband had a name that began with a W.

              So after the second wedding, all of my grandmother’s monogrammed towels and napkins were back in use as was my step grandmother’s silverware set embossed with a W. Granddad and step grandmother were both very amused by it.

              My grandmother went by her middle name socially, and my step grandmother went by a nickname, so it didn’t seem too weird except for the hand towels and silver.

          5. Turquoisecow*

            My brother and my husband have opposite names – brother’s first name is husband’s middle name and vice versa. Husband’s middle name is what it is because it’s his father’s first name. Spelled differently than my brother’s but pronounced the same.

            Also, friend of my husband’s is married to a woman with the same first name as his previous long term girlfriend. He calls the old girlfriend 1.0 or (name)1 when referring to her in conversation.

            1. Rainy*

              My fiancé’s HS-into-20s ex-girlfriend and I have the same nickname, though spelt differently. She actually has the name my name is usually a nickname for.

              When I met my STB FIL he in so many words demanded to call me something–anything!–else because he didn’t like fiancé’s exgf and hates ambiguity like having to clarify who he means. Fiancé’s mum put her foot down because she wasn’t raised in a barn.

              1. Turquoisecow*

                Yeesh. Yeah he needs to get over it. People often have names that are the same as other people’s names.

          6. kallisti*

            I have a cousin whose husband’s very common first name is the same as her dad’s. One of my other uncles started calling them “Good Jim” and “Bad Jim” and it just kind of stuck. (It’s not really Jim, but that’s about the same level of generic-ness.)

              1. kallisti*

                New husband is good Jim and my uncle (her dad) is bad Jim. Bad Jim is a little bit brash and abrasive (we like him anyway), and since we started using those nicknames not a single person in the family has had to ask which was which. :D

                1. BF50*

                  I had coworks nicknamed Nice Mary and Mean Mary. Mean Mary came up with it. They both thought it was hilarious when then got each other’s phone calls. “Oh, sorry, you have the wrong Mary. You want to talk to Mean Mary. Let me transfer you.” And yes, they referred to each other as Mean Mary and Nice Mary to customers.

                  The customers thought it was hilarious, unless Mean Mary had to be mean to them. She did collections, so that did happen.

                  Nice Mary was the sweetest lady. Likely never raised her voice to another living soul. The names were not unfounded.

                2. Specialk9*

                  That’s an amazing story. The fact that Mean Mary came up with it is what makes it ok, and hilarious. Ohh, no, you want Nice Mary, I’m Mean Mary.

          7. snarkarina*

            My grandfather and great uncle both married women with the same first & middle names. But one went by her first name and the other my her middle, and it was YEARS before the children figured it out. (And then got low key freaked out)

          8. chocoholic*

            A good friend of mine is married to a woman who has the same first name as one of his sisters. And my cousin’s husband shares a name with her brother. It happens.

          9. Too many Nicks*

            I think this has to be common, as weird as it may seem. Mine is:

            Maternal grandfather – Nicholas
            Uncle (mom’s brother) – Nicholas
            Uncle’s wife’s brother – Nicholas
            My Father – Nicholas

            When I started seeing a guy called Nick, my mom told me that it better not last because there’s too many of them in the family already. Yeah we’re married now… oh and my husband’s father’s name is… of course… Nicholas

            So no, I don’t think it’s unlikely at all that someone could have 2 ex’s with the same first name.

            1. Aitch Arr*

              “Over here is my brother, Ted, and his wife, Melissa, and their children, Anita, Diane and Nick.

              Over here, my brother Tommy, his wife Angie, and their children, Anita, Diane and Nick.

              And here, my brother George, his wife Freda, and their children, Anita, Diane and Nick.”

                1. Baby Fishmouth*

                  My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I think.

                  The quote goes on – everyone after that is named Nick.

                2. Specialk9*

                  “Welcome to my home. Over here is my brother, Ted, and his wife, Melissa, and their children, Anita, Diane and Nick. Over here, my brother Tommy, his wife Angie, and their children, Anita, Diane and Nick. And here, my brother George, his wife Freda, and their children, Anita, Diane and Nick. Taki, Sophie, Kari, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, uh, Nikki, and I am Gus.”

              1. SusanIvanova*

                That happened in real life, only even worse: Mom was doing family history research on her friend Steve. His family had been active in the history of the area, so finding old newspaper articles was easy. The hard part: the first family member in the area was also a Steve. He had three sons, Steve, William, and Thomas (making up the second two as I don’t remember).

                The sons each had 3 sons. They named them Steve, William, and Thomas.

                Mom’s Steve was a generation or two later than that, so the pattern persisted.

                Newspaper articles wouldn’t bother to mention *which* Steve, William, or Thomas they were talking about, because it was a small town so everyone already knew.

            2. greatestheights*

              Agreed that this is pretty common! My dad has the same name as my mom’s dad and brother. So for us, it’s:

              My dad: Bill
              Maternal grandfather: Bill
              Maternal uncle: Bill

              My mom’s other brother, my other uncle, was named Mike. Funnily enough, my mom’s sister was also briefly engaged to a guy named Bill…and then, in a twist, *actually* married a guy named Mike.

              We use a lot of random nicknames at family gatherings.

              1. Not A Morning Person*

                This reminds me…we use “big first name” and “little first name” for my brother and my nephew. Now it’s funny because “little first name” is 3 inches taller and about 20 lbs heavier than his dad, who is himself over 6 feet tall.

                1. Rainy*

                  My experience with big and little nicknames is that if you meet a guy named Big Mike, he’s gonna be a big guy. But when you meet his friend Little Mike, he’s still gonna be a big guy. And their friend Tiny is HUGE.

                2. Afiendishthingy*

                  My dad is Big Mike* to the grandkids! He’s 5’6. He was Little Mike when he was a kid and his step-grandfather was Big Mike.

                  *not actually mike

                3. Marion Ravenwood*

                  We used that for my middle sister and cousin (both of whom have the same first name) for a bit – sister, being the oldest, was Big Firstname and cousin was Little Firstname. They also occasionally get referred to in relation to their parents, so my sister is ‘[dad’s] Firstname’ and cousin is ‘[aunt’s] Firstname’, but I think that might be a Liverpool thing as I’ve never heard anyone else use it.

            3. Tau*

              Suddenly reminded of my attempt at reading up on German history as pertaining to Prussia, which was made rather more difficult by the fact that all of them are named Friedrich, Wilhelm or Friedrich Wilhelm. Over centuries.

          10. What's with today, today?*

            My Aunt and my Mom have the same first and middle name. Aunt married my Mom’s brother, so my aunt now has my Mom’s entire maiden name.

          11. Rebecca in Dallas*

            We have so many repeat names in my family and my husband’s family. I won’t list them all at the risk of some weirdo figuring out who I am, but we have uncles, aunts, fathers, cousins and siblings with the same names. So we have lots of nicknames. Ex: Mike, Michael, Mikey. Dan, Danny, Daniel. Oh, and one uncle has been married twice and both women had the same first name.

          12. Jamie Starr*

            I grew up in a small rural town. My brother “Trevor” married a woman named “Jennifer Marie” who was not from our town. Another Trevor from our town (who was a few years older than my brother), married a Jennifer Marie who was in my brother’s class in school (and our second cousin). Both Jennifer Maries have the same birthday.

          13. EvilQueenRegina*

            My mum and uncle are Christine and Christopher, and both are Chris to their friends. (Thankfully there isn’t a lot of confusion among the family as my uncle is known as Donald in the family – when he was a baby and Mum was 2, she couldn’t pronounce Christopher and could only say “Tiffer”, so their parents decided to call him Donald which she found easier to pronounce. Then when he got to school he started getting Donald Duck and Donald Where’s Your Troosers. In the end he changed schools when they moved house, this teacher introduced him as “Chris” and he decided to start using that.)

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

              Now see, I expected that he’d be called Tiffer! That’s a variation I haven’t heard before (though I’ve known multiple guys who go by Topher).

          14. SBC*

            A former coworker had a brother with a gender-neutral name who married a woman with the same first name. They then named their daughter the same name. So they referred to them as “boy[name]”, “girl[name]”, and “baby[name]”.

            And I just realized that when my BiL and his fiance get married, I will have the same name as her. Which feels weird because my maiden name is extremely unique. There’s only a few people left with that last name.

            1. Susan Sto Helit*

              I also have a pretty unique last name – unless any future husband has a surname that I feel is a significant upgrade, I’m planning to keep it. There are sentimental reasons to do so, but also practical ones – being able to get email accounts that are your actual name is great. It would definitely feel weird to go from having a unique name to being one of many (although I guess there are some benefits to having the increased online deniability).

              1. SBC*

                Husband’s last name isn’t common outside of the town we grew up, so I’m fairly certain that it’ll just be me and future SiL with the same name. I do have a more kick-ass middle name, though.

        3. TotesMaGoats*

          FWIW-One of my dad’s uncles had two marriages and some how the children produced in the marriages were in the same order. So, Boy1, Boy2, Girl1, Boy3, Girl2. Seriously. BUT to get weirder. He named them the same. True, honest to God story. So, it’s not completely improbable that it’s a Tammy1 Tammy2 situation.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            My grandfather remarried after my grandmother died, and he married a widow. He had two adult kids, and my stepgrandmother had three adult kids… and both of his kids had the same name as one of their new stepsiblings.

            Weird things happen.

                1. boo bot*


                  Or so no one could complain about favoritism: “You didn’t get a birthday present? My secretary must have addressed it to the other Nick!”

        4. LQ*

          OH! My mother married 2 men with the same name. Different dudes (very very different) but they totally have the same first name and she assumes that you’ll know which one from context clues (which to be fair is usually pretty easy) but when my sister and I use the names it’s harder because we don’t have vitriol vs adoration.
          (I kind of like the it’s two different guys with the same name theory, so I’m trying to add some fuel to this one.)

          1. SophieChotek*

            My mom dated two men (not at the same time!) with the same name. (She dated them a few years apart.) She later married the 2nd man she dated.

            Perhaps still a stretch, but I guess the same name thing isn’t as uncommon as one might think…

        5. Henry the Eighth*

          I got married to the widow next door. She’d been married seven times before and every one was a Henry!

          1. Lollygagger*

            She would have a Willy or a Sam (no Sam!).

            I truly love that song. Might still have the record of it.

        6. CupcakeCounter*

          Uncle did that – married two women with slightly different legal first names (think Kathleen and Katherine) who both went by the same nickname (Kate).
          There have been a lot of jokes…

          1. Kathleen_A*

            My late FIL had three wives, all three with very similar names. My husband and I used to joke that if we were him, we’d the current spouse “Darling,” just to avoid using the wrong name.

          2. Armchair Analyst*

            My husband’s uncle came to our wedding with his long-term girlfriend Mary. By the time we had our first kid, he had changed girlfriends to Maria. No one could remember the new girlfriend’s name. I was like, are you kidding?! It’s the same name!

        7. Anonymeece*

          I knew a couple who both had the same name: Terry [Married Name]. Weird, but it happens, and finding two separate people isn’t out of the realm of possibility, though still unlikely.

          1. Teapot librarian*

            I knew that couple! (Well, their son.) Unless there are multiple Terry Lastname couples out there.

          2. Rainy*

            My late husband officiated at the marriage of Robert and Roberta Lastname. They went by Bob and Bert.

          3. uranus wars*

            I’ve also known a married couple with the same first names.
            And one married couple who had the same (extremely common) last name when they met. No debate on whether to change you name, I guess?

        8. Kittymommy*

          One of my friends was married to a Jack, her mother was married to a Jack, and her aunt (mother’s sister) was married to a Jack, all at the same time. Christmas was very confusing.
          (All of the Jack’s were jerks too.)

          1. Anonymeece*

            I have a big family and we never thought anything of it, but one of my friends commented once to another one visiting, “If you can’t remember someone’s name, it’s probably John.” We had to come up with nicknames to differentiate: J.T., John, Jr., Uncle John and Aunt X, Little John…

            Thankfully not all our John’s were jerks.

        9. Delta Delta*

          My family has a bit of a joke about how my mother in law dates Kevins (has seriously dated 3 guys named Kevin) but marries Steves (2 marriages, 2 Steves).

      2. Spelly*

        I have two mothers named Jan and my husband has two brothers named Andrew. Weirder things have happened!

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Sure, why not?

        Married Hubby #1
        Hubby #1 died
        Married Hubby #2
        Divorced Hubby #2
        Now has a boyfriend

        What’s hard about that?

        1. Nancy*

          And if Hubby #1 was the love of her life, and Hubby #2 was a jerk who she married on the re-bound or out of loneliness and despair, it is entirely possible that she considers herself the widow of Husband #1 rather than the ex-wife of Husband #2.

          Or, she could just have issues.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Could be something like that. I knew someone who had Hubby #1, jerk and father of her child who she divorced, Hubby #2, awesome person who died, and Hubby #3. For years I thought Hubby #2 was the father of her child because she literally never mentioned Hubby #1, and the child considered #2 his father.

            1. ElspethGC*

              An acquaintance had three children under ten – a girl of about ten, and two boys under five. I’d briefly met her partner and presumed he was the dad of all three, especially since the daughter called him dad. It wasn’t until she complained about her ex trying to get shared custody that I realised the girl had a different father – or, as the acquaintance said, a sperm donor. He hadn’t done anything to deserve to be called a father other than contribute some DNA.

              1. Marion Ravenwood*

                My husband’s family is similar – his mum had his sister with someone else before she married my husband’s dad, then they had my husband and his brother. But they refer to her as their sister and she calls husband’s dad her dad. I didn’t find out she wasn’t their full sister until after husband and I were married – the birth dad is never spoken of, there are no photos of him and I don’t think SIL has even met him, or certainly not since she was a child.

        2. Wrenn*

          Yes, this is very possible.

          My only doubt about this comes from the fact that people who ramble on about their personal lives at work (like constantly talking about a deceased spouse), tend to talk about ALL their personal life, including short-lived and/or ill-advised relationships. You often know far more about their partners, including the relationship timelines, than you know about some of your friends. So the fact that she talks endlessly about her late husband and presumably her boyfriend leads to me to believe that if there was another relationship in there, she would have said something about it.

          1. Hello Sweetie*

            My mom’s husband had two previous marriages. His first wife died of cancer. He talks about her ALL the time. I know more about her than his son to be honest. I know he was married and divorced before meeting my mom, but I know NOTHING about his second wife, not her name or anything about her. So I can easily see this situation happening

        3. Rebecca in Dallas*

          This was my first thought, she’s been married more than once.

          I just don’t think you can jump to the “she made up his death” conclusion by a Facebook picture.

        4. Pebbles*

          My husband’s stepfather is much older than his mother. His step-brothers are a good 15+ years older than him, and his stepfather was married to their mother for most of their upbringing before getting divorced. After my husband’s mother died and stepfather went to a nursing home, my husband was cleaning out their house, prepping it for sale, etc. Stumbled upon some legal papers that strongly indicated that his stepfather was briefly married (and quickly divorced!) between first wife and his mother. We have never heard any mention of this second wife and even the step-brothers didn’t know of her when asked.

        5. Armchair Analyst*

          This was my assumption as well. And also that, this woman has had a much more interesting romantic life than I have had (married to same guy that I met at age 19 and still going 20 years later….) and that that could be either good or bad and let’s just leave it at that.

        6. Not So NewReader*

          I agree with you Detective Amy, I am not seeing what is hard about this. People have lives and sometimes the story line does not make sense unless they explain.

          OP, your best bet would to be to assume there is logical explanation somewhere and you just don’t see it.

          My father’s stories never made sense because of location. “Well when I was in Las Vegas” and “When I was in Jersey…” and “When I was in NY..” The list goes on like this. Finally I said, “Your geography is not making sense to me.” And then he explained from the top of the story and it all fell together.

          Just because it does not make sense does not automatically mean there lying or bad deeds going on.

      2. GRA*

        My mistake … I was reading it as she was married to her second husband AND had a boyfriend. If the most recent husband is an ex in this scenario … have at it.

    2. Myrin*

      I thought of that, too, but then I assumed that coworker actually mentioned husband’s name and that that’s why OP was able to recognise his name on Facebook in the first place.

      1. Nita*

        Could be OP just figured this is the husband since they shared the last name… but then, how would OP know this is the husband and not, let’s say, the husband’s cousin? FWIW, somehow my husband and a cousin do share a first name, and so does my brother (though he has a different last name of course). And I have three uncles of roughly the same age, with the same first-and-last names. No one is quite sure how it happened, as these are not even common names or old family names.

        So, yeah, that might not be the husband at all.

    3. Kimberlee, Ranavain*

      Yeah. Ultimately, for me, the easy solution is to just reflect that there are a million ways that co-worker could be not-lying, and just assume one of them is the case. Doesn’t matter how probable or improbable they are, if there are other *possible* scenarios where this all makes sense, that’s good enough for me. People make strange decisions sometimes, and we rarely have all the information, so sometimes it’s just easier to give the benefit of the doubt and move on.

      1. MakesThings*

        Exactly- this could be a case of two different husbands, or a friend who is not actually her husband, but designated “married on Facebook” (some people do that as a joke), or even a case of polyamory (admittedly, this is a small chance).
        It could be anything.
        I’d let it go.

      2. Denise*

        Completely agree. Turning her into the office basketcase based on FB snooping and speculation is not at all kind. I’d sooner just ask her, but agree with Alison’s advice to just leave it alone.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, why would anyone want to label someone as the office basket case? What is to be gained. I probably would want to ask her also, but Alison is correct. Don’t kick a hornet’s nest. This is either going to prove OP right, and that is not a winning situation. Or it is going to prove OP wrong and really tick off the coworker. Again not a winning situation.

      3. Tangerina*

        Could you image how horrible it would be for Widow if the husband really is dead, but this “truth” rumor was spread around? After months, someone is finally brave enough to tell Widow, “yeah, we all know you’re lying and your husband isn’t dead.” That would be an awful situation for her to endure.

      4. Grits McGee*

        Also- imagine the blowback if OP tells everyone that coworker’s husband isn’t dead, but it turns out that OP is wrong? Even if there’s only a 1% chance that coworker isn’t lying, is it worth the chance of getting a reputation as the person who told everyone at work that a grieving widow was faking it?

      5. boo bot*

        This is how I try to approach these things, too (although I like to come up with all the permutations). You have to allow for reasonable doubt!

      6. Ann O'Nemity*

        This is what I would cling to! Absolutely. Otherwise, I’m just speculating about why she’s lying. And then I start questioning the veracity of everything she says. And then it starts bleeding over into work stuff too. Because if she can repeatedly lie about her husband’s death, of course she can lie about numbers in a tps report. And so on, until I’m side eyeing everything she saying because I’ve spiraled from Facebook snooping to losing all trust in my coworker without even talking to her.

      7. Blue*

        I think this is where I come down (unless there’s more to this than I’ve read thus far). Seems very odd, no doubt, but unless OP is 1000% sure the coworker’s lying, she should definitely leave it alone – even then, I probably wouldn’t bother unless she was exploiting it for sympathy.

      8. Tau*

        +1. I’ll take potentially being gullible over potentially being unkind in this sort of situation.

    4. Kim*

      No, she mentions him by name and has kept his last name, so he’s definitely her only husband.

      1. Oryx*

        Not necessarily. Some widows remarry and keep the first husbands name for a variety of reasons: they’ve built a professional profile under that name, they don’t want to go through the hassle, their kids have that name, etc.

          1. Mythea*

            So..My mom died in 2011, her facebook page still gets updated by my step-dad and other family members. So “mom” comments on things, updates her profile and posts new pictures.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              My aunt went back to her first husband’s last name after her second divorce because she had kids and grandkids with that last name and had been known by it professionally before she remarried. But her second husband was a disaster so she didn’t want to keep that name, and she hadn’t used her maiden name since she was like 19.

            2. KH*

              Yeah, I have a friend who died as a teenager, whose family sometimes updates his Facebook (posts new pictures, comments on other people’s posts, etc). I mean, if you read enough of his page it’s pretty clear he’s dead — some of his friends will post on his wall stuff like “my dog just died, please give him a nice ear-scratch for me” — but it’s not always immediately obvious.

              We don’t have societal scripts for how death and social media are supposed to interact. As long as it’s not hurting anyone, I’m not about to judge.

              1. soon 2be former fed*

                I have seen memorial pages that are time-limited, but to keep running a page as though a dead person is alive? That’s a nope for me. Hopefully it isn’t hurting anyone, I would be upset if someone did this for my mother who recently passed away. She was 91, so no FB though.

                1. nonegiven*

                  My cousin still has a facebook page, they didn’t mark him dead and the grown kids post to it a lot when they are missing him.

              2. Canarian*

                I have a high school acquaintance who died in college. Her mother still updates her page regularly with status updates like “shining down on all of you today from Heaven!” I had to unfollow the profile because those posts gave me the heebie jeebies.

                1. Mythea*

                  Canarian, I unfriended it as well. It was creepy and uncomfortable. But…to each their own

            3. soon 2be former fed*

              Sorry about your mom, I recently lost mine. But this sounds creepy as hell, kind of Norman Bates-ish. To each their own I guess.

              1. Mythea*

                I actually unfriended the account cause I thought it was creepy too…but – wanted to share this as a possible explanation. People grieve in their own ways

              2. Chinookwind*

                It can definitely give you a WTF moment when it happens. One friend came up to me and asked if I knew Fr. Greg and if I followed his Facebook page. I said yes but wondered where this was going as he had died 3 years earlier. Friend asked if I had received any messages from Fr. Greg via Facebook recently because he had. I swear I mentally wondered if you can get wifi in Heaven before remembering that someone had memorialized his Facebook page and it was probably a “remember when” post that shows up every so often.

            4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

              This was my first thought. People can do strange things when they grieve.

              One of my uncle’s friends lost a child when they were a toddler (long before the internet). She had what was effectively a shrine center stage in the living room complete with cards and gifts for him, and imagined notes and responses from him. It had been several years since his death.

        1. Bobbin Ufgood*

          RE: keeping last name of prior husband. I had a co-worker who kept her (really kinda horrible) first husband’s name, because all of her work stuff was affiliated with that name, even though she is happily remarried.

      2. jdubbs*

        Again, if Husband #1 and Husband #2 shared a first name, this is still possible. Unless she’s referring to him as Mr. Lastname in conversation, how are you to know if it’s Jimothy Simpson, who passed away, or Jimothy Smith, the man she married and divorced afterwards (and took his last name, which would be why they share a surname on Facebook)…?

    5. Doug Judy*

      Yeah I am curious how the OP knows for sure this is the supposed dead husband. She could have a few ex husbands, especially if she didn’t change her last name after one marriage or goes by her maiden name.
      It could be a relative with the same name too. I have two uncles on one side of the family, one is my dad’s brother, the other is his sister’s husband. Common first name, common last name, so it happens sometimes.

      1. boo bot*

        Yeah, in some families you can have six cousins named John Doeson, all named for their great-uncle John Doeson, who was named for his great-aunt, Doe Johnson, who was named for…

        …and so on.

    6. Rainy*

      That was my immediate assumption.

      As a widow.

      They don’t refuse you a second marriage license, yanno.

    7. snarkarina*

      That’s kinda where I was going . . . that there’s a completely innocent explanation. Because I can’t otherwise explain why she’d keep bringing up a dead husband (even though I did have a coworker who made up a boyfriend complete with (very obviously) photoshopping herself into pictures from the internet and then framing them).

    8. MLB*

      This is why LW should let it be. Not saying it’s out of the realm of possibility that she’s lying, but this is a completely 100% legitimate explanation. And LW should not make assumptions based on FB snooping. This is how rumors and gossip get started. Please just stay out of it.

    9. Johan*

      OMG there are so many possible explanations, and this is but the first that jumped to mind.

    10. Anon for this*

      Our workplace used to have a DG who was very well known for having a fake husband. She would include him in work social RSVPs, yet he was always suddenly on a very important work task at the last minute. His name was Steve, and we used to joke that if she ever did go out on dates then it could only ever be with people named Steve.

      1. soon 2be former fed*

        I have a very real husband that quite a few people in my life have never seen because he indeed is a workaholic and a talented much in demand person who gets lots of last-minute emergency calls. Just because no one has seen the person doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

        1. Anon for this*

          There were other oddities. His inability to show up to social functions over the course of 25 years wasn’t the only problem with her credibility.

          And it is entirely possible that he was real. My comment didn’t state that he was fake, only that she developed a reputation for this (independently at numerous workplaces), and in this case I do believe that the likelihood of him being a real person was quite low.

    11. GrandBargain*

      I had a friend who committed suicide 5 years ago. Her FB profile is still active. No one goes so far as to post new pictures or anything like that. But, other friends regularly (not frequently, but regularly) comment on her page about how much she meant, how much they miss her, wishing happy birthday, etc. It’s odd, but no so impossible for a dead person to have an active FB profile.

      1. soon 2be former fed*

        If no one has her password or reported her as deceased, I imagine the page could stay active forever.

    12. Someone else*

      I thought of this too except it seems like from the sequence described in the letter…the reason OP maybe realized the reference was to dead-husband was by name? And then the click-thru rabbit hole happened… unless maybe first ex-husband is John Smith and dead husband is Jonathan Smythe and OP seeing “John” on FB didn’t realize he’s not the same as “Jon” who is dead?

  3. Juli G.*

    OP, don’t beat yourself too much for looking around her Facebook. We’ve all had a weak moment of too much curiosity and it is available to the public.

    By current wife, you mean a wife different than your coworker, right?

    1. Courageous cat*

      Agreed with the first point. This language has a lot of “it was just an accident I swear” every step of the way here – it’s ok to admit to being a bit nosy! There’s nothing inherently wrong with looking your coworker up on social media. Truly, if it was meant to be the world’s biggest secret, then it shouldn’t be so easy to find on a place as public as Facebook.

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, I honestly wouldn’t even call this “a weak moment of too much curiosity” – it’s one of these “one thing leads to another and suddenly I’ve spent three hours neck-deep in a Wikipedia sub-world about the mating habits of three-legged Argentinian alpacas” situations which seem pretty understandable to me; I actually think it can be pretty hard to just cut yourself off during such a situation, especially when you’re not actually looking for anything in particular, just ambling along, and don’t expect to find anything outstanding.

      1. schnauzerfan*

        I kinda thought the whole “purpose” behind facebook was to get to know people, i.e. snoop. If it’s private, keep it private. But yeah having seen what can’t be unseen, keep your mouth shut.

        1. Rainy*

          I’ve come to the conclusion that the purpose of FB is to help your racist family members out themselves so you can block and avoid them. FB really played the long game there.

            1. TardyTardis*

              Our neighbors would only complain if we didn’t have *enough* fireworks. We’re a bunch of firebugs (though not now, too dry) around here.

        2. Allison*

          The initial purpose of Facebook was to find attractive, single classmates at Harvard and be able to contact them easily. It’s now a place to keep in touch with people, see what your friends are up to and learn about each other, but there are still unwritten rules and guidelines about what’s okay and what’s considered boundary-crossing.

          1. soon 2be former fed*

            FB is the place to cause discord in relationships, and to promote political agendas. I got off of there and am much happier for it. I can keep in touch with people via text and email, or heaven forbid, phone calls! And guess what? Pictures can be sent via text and email too! I hate that the presumption is that everyone has a FB account, like one is created for you at birth or something. It is way too ubiquitous and yes, I was smug when the privacy violation issue surfaced.

          2. The Lemon*

            Disagree. If you want to limit your Facebook page to family and close friends, that’s what privacy settings are for.

        3. The Original K.*

          I’ve had people talk about how they “snooped” on a candidate or coworker’s LinkedIn profile and I’m always like “That’s not snooping, that’s what LinkedIn is for.”

          1. Vicky Austin*

            Slightly off-topic, but if you are searching for your ex or someone else from your past because you’re merely curious to see where they are now, but have no intention of contacting them, DO NOT SEARCH FOR THEM ON LINKEDIN. LinkedIn has a feature where you can pay more to see who has visited your profile. So if your ex or former flame has that feature, they will know that you searched for them and they might think you’re stalking them.
            If you really, really, really need to know what your ex (or someone else who you have no intention of contacting) is up to these days, then use Google or Facebook.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Or just make sure you are not logged in and sometimes you can still see a bit of information on a persons linkedin profile if they don’t have high privacy settings.

            2. Purple Kate*

              Or you can change your settings so that you show up in their search as “Anonymous LinkedIn user.”

            3. RGB*

              You don’t need to be premium to have that function. It’s a privacy setting everyone has access to. It a two way street though….you can’t see whose been looking at your profile if you decide to browse anonymously. So if you’re happy to have people know you’ve been looking at their profile you can also see who has been looking at yours. Premium just means you see everyone regardless.

  4. rldk*

    …I just… wow!
    What a weird and uncomfortable situation to be in. You have my sympathies, OP.
    I definitely can understand that it can feel like a betrayal – you’ve probably spent a fair amount of emotional energy on comforting and trying to be kind towards your coworker in face of her “loss.” You should definitely let yourself feel that, but also remind yourself that ultimately, she’s just a coworker, and this isn’t personal. When one of you gets a new job (eventually), she won’t remain a part of your life.

    Also, I’d make it a point to talk to the coworker who also knows and resolve to not let yourselves vent too much. The more you dwell, the harder it will be to separate your feelings about the situation from acting professionally towards Not A Widow coworker.

  5. xkd*

    People can be married multiple times, so this info doesn’t necessarily mean she’s been lying.

    1. Temperance*

      I’m assuming that she’s used his name instead of just calling him “my dead husband”, which is how LW knows that it’s the same guy.

      1. bonkerballs*

        I don’t know that that’s an assumption we can make. I think it’s certainly reasonable to assume it’s possible she uses her husband’s name and her coworkers know him by that, but I think it’s also possible that he is only referred to as My Late Husband. I know for me, when people don’t actually know the person I’m talking about I almost never use their name, but their relationship with me. My coworkers probably have no idea what my brother’s name is despite the fact that he and I live together and a lot of my stories involve him. My brother and I went to a concert this weekend. My brother and I went home to celebrate our dad’s birthday. My brother broke up with his boyfriend. Etc.

        1. Rainy*

          I agree. When I talk about my late husband, I almost always say “my late husband”–I’m not sure I’ve ever even said his name to most of the people I work with. “My high school boyfriend, who was killed.” I think the only ones I name are actually the people I dated but didn’t marry who have died, and that’s because there’s more than one so the qualifier is needed. I only had one HS bf, and I’ve only had one dead husband thus far, fortunately.

  6. Roscoe*

    I’ll be honest, this is why I don’t think people should snoop on their co-workers facebook. You find out things that you can’t un-learn, and then your opinion is totally changed of them. Problem is, you don’t always have context for everything based on your snooping. And yes, OP was snooping. You can use any euphemism you like. The fact is, you were looking to contact here on FB messenger, then instead of doing that, kept looking, and kept scrolling because you were nosy.

    As to what to do, Alison is right, nothing. This isn’t your business in any way shape or form. You probably shouldn’t have told the co-worker. But now he knows, and it will eventually get out. And it will probably be traced back to you. Her relationship status and relationship to the “dead” husband is in no way any of your concern. If she starts talking about it, just tune it out as you would any other topic you are uninterested in

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not going to come down hard on her for that. I agree it was nosiness, but I don’t think that’s inherently a terrible crime. Lots of people are naturally curious about the people they spend a lot of time with, and the assumption with something like Facebook is that it’s out there for people to see.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        I’ve snooped on coworkers, and in one case learned that my gut instinct to not be alone with a guy was absolutely correct and I may be safer for knowing that. I don’t regret it.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I’m pretty nosy, I admit. I’ve gone down a few Facebook black holes. But the key is to keep the information to myself, especially since it usually does little more than help me paint a picture of the people I know or encounter. I Google myself every six months or so, just to see what others might see if they do the same. I think it would be far worse to grill the co-worker or, say, try to read her text messages.

      3. MLB*

        I don’t think it’s a big deal that she got sucked into the FB worm hole, but she’s making assumptions based on what little info she found, that are being taken out of any type of legitimate context. This is how gossip and rumors get started. Even if the lady is lying about her husband being dead, nothing good can come of spreading around what she “thinks” she found out.

    2. Courageous cat*

      I don’t really think it’s snooping when it’s publicly available information? Snooping is looking through someone’s diary or text messages. I disagree pretty strongly with this – I think knowing people can look at your information at any time is a risk you take using social media, and it’s your responsibility to restrict what others can or cannot see.

      That’s just the nature of the internet IMO.

      1. Roscoe*

        No, its the nature of people being nosy. The thing is, just admit you were snooping. I’m not making a moral judgment of her. I’ve done it to. But when you decide to just keep digging into people’s personal lives just because its there, it is snooping. This isn’t like going on a co-workers LinkedIN to see if they have connections at a particular company you want to work for. Its literally digging into their personal life and going deeper since the initial bit of info she was looking for (info on whether it was dead husband) wasn’t there initially.

      2. Feotakahari*

        +1. If someone doesn’t want me to know that they support a neo-Nazi for Congress, or think age of consent laws should be repealed, or whatever garbage got into their head today, then they should be posting it under a false name like the rest of us.

      3. Clare*

        I don’t think we need to come down harshly on the OP for snooping as there’s nothing she can do about it now (and I’m sure we’ve all done similar at one point or another) but I disagree with the idea that this is 100% totally fine because someone chooses to use social media. Companies like Facebook make it deliberately difficult for people to know what their settings are, and are constantly having “oopsie” moments where information that is set to private becomes public accidentally, or a new policy or setting is rolled out and everyone’s default gets switched back to public until they go in and change it back, and so on. Yes, there are a lot of people who do overshare and who aren’t good and keeping up with privacy changes, but it is also really easy to make a mistake or have your data made public through a company error.

        1. Temperance*

          I don’t think it’s accurate to call it “snooping”. We’d call it Facebook-stalking back in the day, and anything publicly available is fair game.

          The tone of these comments is strange today. It’s almost somehow worse that LW found that her colleague lied about having a dead husband than it is that her colleague lied about having a dead husband.

          1. fposte*

            Finding out isn’t worse. Sharing it with workmates is getting there, though. Trawling and telling is like nasty gossip on steroids. I absolutely believe that the OP got caught up in the moment when she told somebody, but she blew it there. If the OP had a work-related concern about her findings, then a confidential report to the manager is the appropriate response.

          2. Yvette*

            “…anything publicly available is fair game…” YES! It always amazes me when people become incensed at being called out over something they posted on a public forum under their own name. Not to say that in this instance the LW should comment on her knowledge. To me it sort of falls under the same scenario as when you inadvertently overhear a phone conversation. You pretend you didn’t. But I would not think of this as snooping.

          3. tusky*

            Well, the LW didn’t find out that her colleague lied–she found something that she thinks indicates her colleague lied. That’s not a trivial difference.

            1. Mad Baggins*

              Exactly, LW doesn’t know this is 100% true, and also, we’re here to give advice to LW, not to the colleague. If we knew for sure the colleague was lying about her husband, and she asked us for advice we could say, “Hey maybe don’t lie about your husband being dead,” but all we can say to LW is, “Well, that’s what you get for being curious.”

        2. Courageous cat*

          Yeah but that’s the risk you take on social media. If you have a big secret you’re trying to keep, and it’s on your Facebook, then you’d better keep up with any security changes on it. I see your point, I just don’t necessarily agree that it makes it any different.

      4. Ralph Wiggum*

        There’s a huge spread of “publicly available information.”

        Going to town hall to look up court records: snooping
        Sorting through her trash left out at the curb: snooping
        Browsing information self-published on an easy-to-search and publicly accessible platform: not snooping

        1. Scott*

          I disagree about town hall… it’s public information for a reason. If you have serious concerns about a coworker and whether they’ve been convicted of a crime that would question your safety, then it’s appropriate to look up court records before going to management. Sorting through trash left out at the curb though…

          1. CMart*

            I really think it’s just the level of effort involved. Going to the town hall to look at publicly available records might not be “snooping”, but it’s for sure several degrees over “idly spending 5 minutes scrolling through Facebook.”

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              Yeah, it’s public in the sense of “legally must be made accessible to the public” but not in the sense of “the person it references wishes this to be made public”. It’s a really odd thing to do unless you have some legitimate reason.

      5. Jaguar*

        You do have to do some work to find the information. It’s not a matter of “welp, it’s their fault I looked them up on Facebook and started researching and connecting dots.” The same argument could be applied to finding out where they live by following them home: I was just in the neighborhood and couldn’t help but notice that my coworker lives at 190th Street.

        1. Courageous cat*

          Sure you have to do some small degree of work (although technically I wouldn’t call it that as it’s quite easy if you know how to look up people), and sure it’s not their fault – that’s just the nature of social media, though. It still doesn’t make it “snooping” or even at all wrong, really.

          I would not equate it to following them home. Plenty of us are on Facebook every day and it takes very little effort to find anyone else you know, and the kicker there is that it’s *also* widely socially acceptable to look people up on social media. It is widely accepted as *creepy* to physically follow someone home, and that takes a whole different level of effort, so I think there’s a false equivalence there.

          1. Mad Baggins*

            I think the line for Facebook is closer to social veneer that we all pretend we’re not looking. Just as we pretend we don’t notice when a colleague has an acne breakout, or took a particularly long bathroom break today… we can certainly notice, but we wouldn’t (shouldn’t) say something to them about it. In the same way, Facebook might remind me of a photo from high school, and I look on it fondly, then click on a friend’s profile to see where they are now, and happen to notice who they are dating, and look at the S.O.’s profile picture… certainly few would judge me for looking, but if I liked the S.O.’s photo, that would be rather odd. The facade is broken and now I look like a snooper.

      6. Jess*

        I think we’re reading too much negative connotation or value judgment into the word “snooping.” I would probably characterize going through even public info to find out more about someone as snooping, yet I also agree that it’s totally legitimate and not wrongful to do [when it’s confined to legit, non-stalking public sources of information—i.e., not sitting in your car outside someone’s home with binoculars]. The entire purpose of social media is to post info so that other people can see it, so I definitely agree that you absorb the risk of people seeing your info when you post it to social media.

        1. Courageous cat*

          Well, the word snooping typically *does* have a negative connotation in my opinion. Snooping (to me, I don’t know or particularly care what the dictionary says) implies the information is private and not meant to be seen or easily accessed. But yeah, I mean technically the argument could be made that snooping doesn’t have a connotation and that it’s a fair word to describe what OP was doing, but I don’t think that’s a particularly necessary argument to make/spend time on, as it doesn’t prove a point either way.

          1. SeluciaMD*

            I realize we’re splitting hairs a bit on the whole “snooping” front, but I was curious so I looked it up on a few sites. Definitions include:

            1) to look or pry especially in a sneaking or meddlesome manner
            2) to prowl or pry; go about in a sneaking, prying way
            3) investigate or look around furtively in an attempt to find out something, especially information about someone’s private affairs

            And not that it matters AT ALL – I don’t happen to think the OP did anything wrong when looking at her co-workers FB page – but I think as it was without the intent to meddle and there was no malice to the act, I’m not sure it should be classified as “snooping” per se. Also, if you go by that last definition, anything publicly available on FB is pretty much the opposite of “private affairs.”

            I know FB settings can be really confusing and stuff but I also think there is enough information out there that everyone should understand that if there is something you don’t want people to know about you, you don’t share it on social media. Hell, this is like the #1 thing we talk to high school and middle school kids about as we start preparing them for college and the work place because a lot of bigger companies and most universities do screen social media as part of vetting you as a candidate. Would anyone consider that “snooping”? I don’t think so.

            At any rate, OP, I do not envy you this predicament but agree with Allison and the other posters that suggest that keeping this to yourself – at least in a work setting/context – is the smartest and safest course of action for now. That being said, if the truth ever comes out, I hope you’ll come back and give us an update!

      7. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I agree that if someone is putting it on Facebook, they shouldn’t expect that it remains private in any way.

        … but this was a pretty deep dive. The OP viewed her coworker’s Facebook page, actively sought out a post that identified the husband, clicked through to HIS page, examined who had commented on his posts, and figured out who his current wife is.

        It’s not exactly wrong, since everyone involved made choices to allow all that detail to be public, but I’d be pretty creeped out if a coworker did that level of investigation into my and my family’s Facebook history.

        1. Murphy*

          That whole process probably only took a few clicks and a few minutes though, so it’s not like OP was doing an archival dig.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            It’s not the number of clicks that makes it odd and uncomfortable; it’s the motivation. Digging into your coworker’s family’s Facebook pages is weird. I’m pretty surprised that folks are shrugging their shoulders at this.

            1. Clare*

              Yeah I agree. It makes me glad I no longer use Facebook! It’s supposed to be a way to keep in touch with friends and family, not a way for nosy coworkers to find out who I was in a relationship with years ago.

            2. bonkerballs*

              That’s the point of privacy settings. People are shrugging their shoulders because we assume people make their own decisions regarding the privacy of their facebook and if you don’t have strict privacy settings that means you both want and expect people to look at what’s posted there. It’s not like privacy settings are some secret think facebook doesn’t really want you to know about or only the super tech savy will know what they are. Facebook literally pops up basically every time I log in to ask me if I want to update my privacy settings.

            3. Stardust*

              I actually think the number of clicks is pretty relevant–the four clicks OP describes aren’t something I’d ever describe as “digging” in the first place. And her motivation was, as the opportunity presented itself, to have a mental picture of someone her coworker talks about so often which I find pretty understandable and not unusual.

      8. MicroManagered*


        It’s snooping if you are using some surreptitious method to view the information, such as being logged in as someone else or something. If it’s just out there to find, that’s not snooping.

      9. Wrenn*

        Honestly I agree. Snooping implies you’ve violated some sort of boundary, some reasonable expectation of privacy. Anything publicly available on social media is, well, publicly available. It’s no more “snooping” to check out someone’s public profile than it is to look up their phone number in a telephone book.

        You don’t want people to see your stuff? Don’t make it public. Really want to be 100% sure? Don’t put it on social media at all.

    3. Sara*

      Of course people shouldn’t snoop, but it happens. Curiosity plus easy access to information is a dangerous thing. It seems like OP figured out why not to look into coworkers on Facebook (or old high school crushes or former friends or that girl that use to bully you on swim team…).
      But it happens, not the end of the world.

    4. savethedramaforyourllama*

      I wouldn’t even call it snooping… coworker is putting that information out on display for the public, that’s the whole point of social media. For example, if someone is waiting for me at my desk and causally looks around to see the pictures I have up at my desk, that’s not snooping, they’re on display! But if they start opening drawers and my purse then that’s different, so if OP had somehow gained access into a private post or something then I’d call it snooping.

      1. Roscoe*

        To me its snooping because she had to go searching for them online. In your example, the person was waiting at your desk for a work reason. In OPs case, she had to search for her and scroll down to keep reading to get this information.

        1. savethedramaforyourllama*

          I don’t think there is a difference in this day & age…
          legitimate reason: waiting at desk / went on FB to contact for sympathy after surgery
          eyes wander: to photos displayed on desk / to photos displayed on public page

        2. Washi*

          If the OP had somehow stumbled upon the coworker’s personal Flickr account, which was public but not easily accessible and might be assumed to be completely private, I might agree that this went too far. But this was a couple clicks on a Facebook page, and I think most Facebook users are aware of that others will click on their profiles and see their pictures.

          Given that the coworker goes on and on about their dead husband, an active Facebook user, this seems like a piece of information that was not likely to stay private forever. I still agree with Alison that the OP should leave alone, but I don’t think she should feel bad for finding out in a pretty inocuous manner.

        3. Seriously?*

          She had to scroll down a public Facebook page. I assume that if someone puts it on Facebook and doesn’t have strict privacy settings it is information that they are ok with anyone knowing.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            She had to actively seek out a picture of the husband, scroll until she found it, then click over to his page and read comments from other people. It’s a lot.

            1. Yorick*

              I don’t think she was looking for a photo of him until she saw that he’d commented on something.

              If you’re not friends with someone and can only see their public posts, you can go back several years with a few scrolls.

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                No, she says twice that she scrolled to find a picture of him (so she could “have a mental image of him” when her coworked talked about him).

                1. Observer*

                  She also says that it was a quick search because it was only the stuff that was marked public.

                2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  Ok, it was quick. Do you really not think it’s weird to click through to a coworker’s family’s page and read comments that other people left on their pictures? I’m baffled.

                3. Totally Minnie*

                  I don’t actually think it’s that odd. Some people tend to think very visually, and it helps to have a mental image of the person being referenced. For all you know, OP was trying to get a clearer mental image of her coworker’s deceased husband in an effort to better provide sympathy to her coworker. Why assign malice where it’s not clear malice existed?

                4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  I’m not. I was just addressing Yorick’s assertion that she stumbled across it accidentally.

        4. Jessie the First (or second)*

          It’d be snooping if it was not publicly available information. Did it take a few clicks and scrolls to get to the info? Sure it did. But it was all just publicly there on the Web.
          FB allows people to really lock down privacy settings – if I don’t lock mine down, how can I blame someone for looking at what I have chosen to be available to the public? FB is a social network. When I set my account to show my profile pic as public, when I set my account to show any comments I make public, or allow comments to my posts/photos to be public (the theoretical me, that is) it is not “snooping” if someone reads it. I’ve published to for the world to see.
          FB is *designed* to be used to network and extend your “who do I know” world.

          So it’s just weird to come down on the OP for “snooping.” Snooping would be logging onto the coworker’s computer to access coworker’s FB account and read things she was never meant to see. Which is so very much not what happened.

        5. Jess*

          But why are you assuming snooping is always wrongful? I might call it snooping, but without the value judgment that seems to be baked into the work because I certainly don’t think OP did anything wrong. OP wasn’t even trawling, say, court records (which are also public records). She was looking at a Facebook page, the entire purpose of which is for a person to post information and photos about themselves so that other people can see it. Using FB for its intended purpose does not become illegitimate simply because you have to scroll down the page.

        6. Pollygrammer*

          She has a perfectly believably explanation for why she was looking. We’re asked to take letter writers at their word. This is getting I into “holier than thou” territory, IMHO.

    5. Iris Eyes*

      I reserve the right to discover any information about people that is publicly available and make decisions based on the person they show me they are online and off. I find this social convention to be ridiculous, so please know that it isn’t a “truth universally acknowledged.”

      1. Roscoe*

        But the problem is you don’t have the whole story. So now you are making value judgments about someone with limited information.

          1. LQ*

            I mean…that’s the nature of life? You are always making value judgments about someone with limited information. All value judgments are based on limited information. No information is unlimited…

        1. Temperance*

          She could ask her coworker for clarification, or do a public records search to see whether her coworker’s husband is actually dead or not, but I don’t think that will have good results.

          1. Seriously?*

            I think that doing a public records search really crosses a line. Finding information on Facebook is so easy and readily available that casual curiosity can lead you to that information. Also, the coworker has complete control of what she puts on Facebook so it is reasonable to assume going in that she would be ok with people knowing what she publicly posted. She cannot control what is in the public records and doing a public records search is not normal.

            1. Temperance*

              I was responding to Roscoe’s point about “limited information”. I’m fine with finding this information on Facebook – you don’t tell such a horrible lie without realizing that at some point, people *will* find out – but seeking confirmation is a step too far, IMO.

        2. Iris Eyes*

          So exactly the same as we do anyway? It is not the stifling of value judgments but the questioning of them that is essential. It is a good habit to ask “but what else would explain this?”

        3. Jessie the First (or second)*

          I agree with this part of the issue – if you go looking around and find out pieces of a story, you really need to work at remembering you know only pieces, not the whole story. It’s not good to make big value judgments when there are a million ways you could be missing vital info.

          So I don’t think there is anything wrong with OP being curious and clicking, but I *do* think there would be a big problem acting on anything she has sort-of-maybe learned. There are scenarios, regardless how far-fetched, that make the situation actually not a big deal, where the coworker might NOT have lied. So OP needs to pretend it is one of those scenarios and let it go.

      2. Wrenn*

        Me too. Don’t want people to know? Don’t make it public. Better yet, don’t post it at all if it’s that private or sensitive. People will look and you don’t get to claim “privacy” when they do. You put it out there for public consumption.

        Yes, it’s true that on social media you don’t have context and making value judgements off limited information… but isn’t that kinda how human interaction works anyway? A job interview is hardly a complete and unbiased view of a person, yet we use those all the time to make employment decisions. What about dating? Again an arena where we make (and are highly encouraged to make) value judgements off limited information. Just about all interaction between people on the casual friend level on down to strangers is about not knowing much context and making value judgements off limited information. Just because you’re not doing it in person doesn’t make it suddenly wrong. If it’s publicly available, it’s fair game.

  7. Myrin*

    Oh my.
    This is completely bizarre and I, too, desperately want to know all about it, but I agree with Alison that this simply isn’t for you to handle in any way other than doing nothing/being very noncommittal when your coworker talks about dead husband.
    And seeing how your officemate is “about to burst”, maybe have a chat with him too and/or show him this letter and Alison’s answer – you don’t want to unintentionally get tangled up in something because the two of you aren’t on the same page.

    (Also, if you do happen to find out later down the road what this is really all about, please update us if you want to!)

    1. Leela*

      Agreed, keep this under wraps, or it’s going to blow up and come back to you. Even if it turns out she’s been lying, which I agree is possible from the context here but not necessarily the truth or the whole truth, if I was your co-worker and this came out I’d immediately wonder what you’d been looking at under my profile.

      I look at my coworker’s profiles because I like them and we have that kind of relationship, but I don’t go digging in an attempt to uncover things about them that they obviously haven’t cared to share. As far as something that’s so egregious I couldn’t condone at all, I wouldn’t go that far re: digging into facebook to try and find out “the truth” about me (which, as another commenter above pointed out, you’re getting without context). However, it would definitely change my opinion of a coworker if I knew they were doing that and if I was generally someone who freely shared things with them, I’d probably stop, even if it was something they did with another coworker.

      1. Leela*

        Sorry I should clarify: if I was your co-worker, and as me, not as the specific person you’re talking about here. If I found out you’d done this with a different co-worker’s profile, I’d wonder how much you were digging into my stuff to check up on things I said as well.

    2. Wrenn*

      I’d let the office mate handle it in their own way. I’d probably have a conversation with them about how I personally will be dropping it and leaving it alone and do not wish to be involved in any way, but I wouldn’t tell them what to do about it unless they ask. Instructing them on what they should do is involving yourself and making their response, whatever it is, partly your responsibility. It’s not. Don’t assume that because you “started it” that you bear responsibility for how others use this (possibly not even true, you don’t actually *know*) information. You didn’t start anything, she did by (allegedly) making up this lie and perpetuating it to a degree that finding out the supposedly deceased party is alive and well is shocking. Perhaps the office mate would have found out themselves at some point. It was pretty easily found on her public fb profile, after all. So drop it and leave it alone, literally.

      1. Leela*

        I disagree that you don’t bear any responsibility for how others use something that you started. If you’re accusing someone and then just drop off about it, you do bear responsibility for what happens once those accusations turn into actions.

        1. bonkerballs*

          Especially if it turns out that OP is mistaken and this woman is a widow. Than OP is definitely the person who started the rumor that the widow is lying and the coworker OP shared the information with is barely part of the story.

        2. Oh So Very...*

          Agree. You opened this box. You bear quite a bit of responsibility. You could have kept it to yourself but you did not. You started it, and now it’s out of your control.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        The minute you share it is the minute you become responsible for it.

        OP shared it, so is now absolutely responsible for any fall out.

      3. Thlayli*

        OP you do need to have a chat with your office mate and let her know that you will not be addressing it with the “widow” and will try not to let it affect your relationship with her. Share Alison’s response if you think it will help.

        You really really need to impress on your officemate that if she insists on mentioning it, she has to leave you out of it totally.

        If you get the impression that she’s not willing to do this, that she is intending to bring it up and tell about your role in it all, then you are in a bit of a pickle. In that case you might be better off talking to the “widow” together so at least you can make clear that it wasn’t intentional spying and you personally wanted to leave it alone.

    3. Anonymeece*

      I would also think about telling the coworker to keep you out of it, and that you’re sorry you shared the information, and wouldn’t have if you could go back. And if he does tell, and for whatever reason it makes it to HR, you should stick to that.

      At the very least, if it turns out that it’s all an honest mistake, you can show that you did try to stay out of it, and aside from a brief lapse in judgment in telling coworker (which, I think, is kind of understandable), which will mitigate any fall-out.

      1. Girl friday*

        They always say a secret shared is a secret lost. I’d just let it play out. That’s how you find out who your true friends are, and I hate to say it but I guess in this case Op learned some lessons. I hope it was never your intention to be considered a friend to this person, or trustworthy, sadly.

  8. Meh*

    Sounds like the plot of some sort of mystery/thriller movie where the next big reveal is that the dead husband who’s alive is suddenly murdered and the coworker is the main suspect! Though I agree with Alison. This is bizarre but not your problem. Trying to “observe” her like a science experiment may make it a little more tolerable.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      OP: “Um, we know he’s not dead…”
      Coworker: “…be right back…”

      1. Ladyphoenix*

        You just turned ibto a Black Murder Comedy

        I LOVE it! The ultimate comedy of the Black Widow that fails to be a black widow.

    2. henrietta*

      I once had a coworker that had a fabulist streak. She’d claim things going on in her life that couldn’t possibly be true unless other things in the world were false (…which weren’t false). I took the ‘science experiment’ approach to it, and it worked well. Many of my friends were all “Why aren’t you confronting her?!?” and I was “eh, it really doesn’t affect me in any way but entertainment, I don’t need to.” So I totally get the curiousity!

  9. GRA*

    I would have a really hard time trusting anything this co-workers says after finding something out like this. It would definitely impact my working relationship with her … that’s a pretty significant thing to lie about for years.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      For example—did she really have the surgery? Or is it something else she made up to get sympathy/attention?

        1. Konstanze*

          Is it, though ? I mean, we all want to be professional, and I would hope to stay professional and try not to let this alter my opinion of her work, but when you lie about something like that, which could so easily come out… it would be difficult not to be suspicious.

          But also, there could be another explanation. So, Alison’s advice is spot on.

        2. Thlayli*

          I don’t think it’s a bit much at all. Assuming she is actually lying about this (and not eg divorced from and widowed by two men of the same name), then that’s a really big thing to lie about. I don’t think I could trust anyone who lied about something like that. How could you? She has zero integrity.

    2. Ralph Wiggum*

      I agree. To me, trust issues with coworkers definitely qualifies as a work impact that needs to be resolved.

      If they rarely interact, let it go. But if they’re coordinating on work daily, there needs to be trust.

    3. tusky*

      If you find something like this and immediately conclude the coworker has been lying (rather than think there might be something you are misunderstanding about what you saw online), maybe you didn’t really trust that coworker to begin with?

      1. Mustard*

        Nah, the way OP has written the letter makes me think they already considered other explanations and all that extra looking about was to find a better explanation. You can trust someone and still be thrown. People are wild.

        1. tusky*

          The OP writes that they looked at the page on facebook (because they were curious what the husband looked like), saw that it had been active/updated recently, made a sound of dismay, and then “without thinking, I shared what I’d discovered.” That’s about as far from “considered other explanations” as one could get.

  10. BigTenProfessor*

    Lol, this is some Obi-Wan stuff…”the good man who was your EX-HUSBAND was destroyed. So what I told you was true, from a certain point of view.”

    1. Angela Ziegler*

      I was thinking more like stumbling into a huge, terrible secret that was only discovered from some snooping. ;)

      “Oh… an order of millions of human clones? As an army? Uh, yes, that’s what I ordered. Totally expected to find this when I landed here, yup. Nothing out of the ordinary here!”

      1. boo bot*

        And I was thinking Key & Peele, with Jordan Peele as Neil deGrasse Tyson.

        “If the history of the universe were scaled onto a calendar representing a single year, all of human existence would take place in the final eight minutes of the last day of the year. So, cosmically speaking, if doesn’t matter if my husband died yesterday, or in five hundred years.”

  11. Ashley*

    I had a friend who broke up with a long time girlfriend (2 years I think?), and she continued to say they were dating for at least a year afterwards. Albeit on social media. She would stalk his FB and see what he had been doing on say that she was doing those things with him on her blog. It was so weird, but it went on for so long that you had to think she had some serious coping problems. He ended up just blocking and ignoring her because every time he said “stop saying we’re still dating” she would try to convince him to get back together.

  12. John Rohan*

    I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, it’s the woman’s own personal business, and if she wants to live in a fantasy world, that’s on her. Plus, researching someone through Facebook is not always accurate. You might have missed something, like maybe she was married twice previously.

    However, I break with Allison in that something should be done insofar as this is affecting work, although we don’t know how much it is affecting it. The woman mentions the deceased husband “fairly often” at work, so it takes up employee time/sympathy, and she used it to keep her job after what I assume was poor performance.

    BTW, if I was the boyfriend I sure as heck would want someone to tell me…

    1. fposte*

      It doesn’t take up employee time any more than mentioning a pet takes up time, though. The mere mentioning isn’t an issue; something doesn’t have to be true to be suffered to be mentioned in the workplace.

      The not firing is another matter, but it’s not the co-worker’s problem. And it’s also kind of karma for a bad management call anyway.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      My MIL liked to tell her boyfriends that she was married three times. She doesn’t tell anyone about fake dead husbands, but she has actually been married seven times. My SIL told MIL’s last boyfriend the truth, and he dumped MIL soon after. MIL hasn’t spoken to my SIL (her daughter) in a decade because of this. That boyfriend was her last good meal ticket and SIL ruined it for her. . .

      So, I guess that’s just my cautionary tale to MYOB when dealing with the coworker. If the can of worms is opened and BF finds out, you may be held responsible for destroying her life.

        1. savethedramaforyourllama*

          and a 4th, and a 5th, and a 6th, and a 7th! haha

          but yes, strictly speaking that is true.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        One of my grandmothers only ever mentioned two husbands (my mother’s father and my mom’s half-sisters’ father), but she was actually married at least three times. She’s dead now, so we’ll never know if she didn’t mention him out of vanity (three husbands does sound racier than just two, yes? :-)), or because he was so horrible she didn’t want to think of him ever again, or she simply decided to simplify her life’s narrative, or maybe just because she could – after all, there were no children from that marriage that had to be accounted for.

        1. Anonymosity*

          …she simply decided to simplify her life’s narrative…

          This is exactly why I call one ex-boyfriend’s child my stepdaughter and refer to our breakup as a divorce, if I’m casually discussing it. We were never married, but it’s easier to say that than explain “Well we weren’t married but we lived together and functioned just like a married couple and going through the breakup was exactly like a divorce emotionally only without the legal stuff and I had to leave what I considered my home,” etc.

          Of course, if I’m dating someone, they get the comprehensive explanation, but if I’m just telling a funny story about our farm animals to people I’m merely acquainted with or likely won’t see again, I don’t bother.

          1. Courageous cat*

            I hear your point but I think “the legal stuff” is precisely what *does* make a divorce considerably worse to go through than a breakup, not necessarily emotionally, but from a more practical standpoint. The legal stuff alone can be extremely draining and take so much time and money to deal with. I can see some divorced people I’ve known possibly taking issue with this. But then, like you said, if it’s to people you don’t know well or won’t see again – who really cares.

            The wider point to this whole letter is that if you want to simplify your life’s narrative go ahead, but if there’s something conflicting about it on social media, don’t be surprised if you have to clarify further at some point!

            1. MsSolo*

              The problem is without the legal framework, ending a long term relationship can be much harder because you have less recourse for child maintenance, or a share of a house you’ve been paying the mortgage on, or the right to see a child you helped raise. Having to work through all of the issues from scratch, knowing the only way to resolve them is if you both agree (and if one of you changes your mind, there’s very little you can do about it) while you’re in the middle of disagreeing about one of the fundamental aspects of your joint life, can be much harder as well. Ultimately, it depends on the relationship, and it depends on the break up – the legal stuff can make an amicable divorce much easier, or an unamicable break up much harder.

              1. Courageous cat*

                That’s very true. It can go either way, although I think people in relationships *tend* to (not always) have fewer shared legal commitments or children, vs people who are married. But a valid point nonetheless.

            2. Zillah*

              I think that any divorced people who fault someone for simplifying a complicated situation in casual conversation are putting their own life issues on others in a really inappropriate way, regardless of how closely they know the person talking about the situation.

      2. Temperance*

        I mean, I think that your MIL is the asshole here. Lying to men to trick them into marrying you is a pretty awful thing to do, and then blaming others … nope.

    3. Courageous cat*

      Agreed on the second point. I don’t know what could possibly be done about it, but the “it takes up employee time/sympathy” part is what sticks out to me. It’s not ideal, but I personally would find it really hard to not dig further (just innocently broaching the subject without obvious judgment, like “I actually came across his name on Facebook the other day and was wondering…”) the next time she brings it up.

      If you want to spin tall tales and leave it there, then fine, but if you’re going to talk *at length* about it in the workplace…… I dunno. It’s tricky. I do still think the ideal answer is not to say anything at all, I can see why one would possibly still try to ask somehow anyway.

    4. The Other Geyn*

      I never updated my Facebook status as being in a relationship when my now-husband and I were dating, and apart from one engagement post I forgot to update the status of our marriage. It was really due to my laziness more than anything else (and my page is private and my fb friends all know that I’m actually married).

      I think if she was ever trying to claim bereavement leave or extra days off (or some sort of actual work-related benefits), it’s fair game to press more. But otherwise, it’s a MYOB situation for me.

  13. Mkitty*

    I have to admit that if it were someone I work with, I’d be wondering what other big lies she’s been telling about her life. It’s hard to imagine that anyone who tells that kind of lie isn’t also lying about other things. Maybe I’m just suspicious, though.

    In any case, Alison is absolutely right – there’s no need to tell anyone else what you found.

  14. Kim*

    Thanks Alison. That is my instinct as well. I just don’t want it to get out and have it on my conscience that I found the information.

    JokeyRules, that is exactly my fear, especially since two of us know!

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Or you could play mad scientist. You could give her a friendly heads up that you thought about friending her on FB so you could message her, but didn’t want to overstep so you skipped it.
      See if she friends you.

    2. AnonNurse*

      Honestly, there really are other explanations. I have a friend who is divorced but since that marriage ended, she has been married again. That marriage unfortunately ended in her being suddenly widowed. She now has an amazing boyfriend but I can easily see someone going down the Facebook rabbit hole and ending up with bad conclusions if they could only see bits and pieces of her past and not details.

      Definitely a good thing to back away from that and assume she’s not lying until there is a much better reason than this.

  15. Dust Bunny*

    OK, I think this is weird but, sure, she could have had more than one husband. But unless she’s using it to profit somehow or it’s interfering with her job, I don’t think it’s her coworkers’ place to “out” her or comment. The snoopers may not actually have as much information as they think they do.

  16. AnotherAlison*

    One thing I like about the county I live in is that the court records are all easily accessible online, without having to go to the courthouse or file any requests. If I were the OP, I’d be looking up my coworker there to find her marriage, divorce, and any other relevant records to try to piece together the story for my own sanity. I’d also be searching obits.

    I know that’s kind of the opposite of what Alison recommended — letting it go.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Yeah, it’s… also kind of compounding the problem? This wasn’t something that landed on the OP’s desk that she couldn’t avoid seeing, this is something she went digging for.

      1. fposte*

        Speaking as one of the digging-inclined, I think you can only dig if you can keep your mouth shut about your findings (absent criminal-type shenanigans). Otherwise it’s kind of like recording your co-workers without their consent: even if it’s legal, it’s an unfair degree of scrutiny and it’s not a good look for you.

        Since the OP couldn’t resist sharing with a co-worker on the first go, I think she needs to disqualify herself from excavation and put the shovel down.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Agreed. My mom and husband would probably hear all about it, but I wouldn’t spread it around the office. Mostly because it would make me look like the weirdo who snoops on people. ; )

      2. Leela*

        I’d be pretty upset if OP did this. What if ex-husband was horribly abusive and this was the best way she could think of to navigate that situation? This could be bringing up some real trauma for her.

        It’s also possible that he’s the greatest guy ever who is totally alive and she’s lying, and anything in between those two examples. I think OP really needs to not touch this unless it’s getting into territory where she’s asking for special treatment related to this.

      3. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I say OP needs to hire a slew of private detectives/investigators to follow the coworker, coworkers bf, dead/not dead husband, dead/not dead husband’s wife, and one to dig through local public records and newspapers for info on the death, another PI to interview dead/not dead husband’s relatives and ask questions about the marriage. Finally after all that is done OP needs to come back and give us a report on the findings.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I forgot to add after all that is done, OP needs to print the report and put a copy of it on every other coworkers desk/chair/office including the coworker who may or may not have a dead husband, and give a copy to the boyfriend all anonymously of course.

          1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            Seriously? You’d leave a paper on everyone’s chair? That’s messed up. Post on the company’s internal home page. Think of the trees, dude!

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              You are right I was completely off base in my above comment, posting it on the internal home page is clearly the better way to go.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                I think an email blast would be more appropriate. Who reads the internal home page??

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  But we want to be anonymous so we don’t have to confront the coworker. Unless OP creates a fake resume that is perfectly tailored to the companies current hiring need, OP then hires an actor to pretend to be that person gets interviewed and hired for that job. Then on the first day of work the hired actor can email blast the report right before lunch, go to lunch and never come back.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  @Cmdr, That will make coworker dead living husband story look pretty dull by comparision, I think.

    2. JokeyJules*

      my rational brain is saying “don’t do that, let it go”

      but the entire rest of my body NEEDS TO KNOW

    3. Friday*

      I’d be looking for the obit too.

      I did once have a coworker whose first husband died in service and her second she divorced. She talked a great deal more about the good one than the bad one.

  17. neverjaunty*

    I really like Alison’s point about wanting to know things that we don’t actually need to know.

  18. Bea*

    Oh dear…

    It sounds like your other co-worker is going to out her one way or another. Just stay out of it at this point. Act like it’s just another office rumor and create proper distance. The other shoe will drop though because I know how office gossip works too well sadly.

    1. Mephyle*

      Do people think the OP should have a word with the about-to-burst officemate? For example, to point out to her that outing people’s personal stuff is uncool and to suggest that there could be another explanation?
      Or should she just stay out of that, too?

      1. Temperance*

        I don’t think LW should lecture her colleague about respecting their coworker’s privacy and finding another explanation for her lying.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Particularly since the LW is the one who shared all this with the co-worker in the first place.

          1. Temperance*

            Fair point. I would have been super shocked, too and it would have been nearly impossible for me to keep it a secret. I’m honestly not sure that they have an obligation not to mention this to anyone else.

            1. neverjaunty*

              But would you have done all that delving into a co-worker’s Facebook page in the first place? It’s not like the OP swore an oath of secrecy, but being snoopy and being unable to keep from “bursting” with a secret are not good traits to have in the same person.

              1. Temperance*

                Honestly, yes. I can easily see myself checking out someone’s FB page to get innocent information or to check in, and then getting a little curious. I don’t think it was that weird, nor do I consider it “snoopy”.

                Something like this is so salacious and frankly strange that I would be surprised if most people didn’t react like OP did. I know I would have.

                1. Myrin*

                  Yeah, same. (Especially since, as someone said above, as described, this whole thing took like five clicks and the same amount of minutes; it’s hardly deep-digging research.)
                  I do have an excellent pokerface, though, so in my case at least the officemate – who seems to be a bit of a liability here – wouldn’t ever have found out about it (at least not from me).

              2. fposte*

                Yup. And speaking as somebody like that myself, I think those impulses often operate in concert. There’s a reason why sites that dig into bloggers’ pasts and share what they’ve found have a following.

              3. Yorick*

                And OP said she told the coworker basically at that moment because they asked why she gasped, not that she was bursting with the secret and had to tell someone.

      2. fposte*

        I don’t think the OP is in a position to tell somebody else that outing personal information is uncool.

        (I understand why you did it, OP, but the problematic indiscretion here is at heart yours and not anybody else’s.)

        1. Mephyle*

          Or to look at it another way, she is in that position because she realizes the unfortunate consequences of what she did, and wants to reduce the harm by suggesting (not “lecturing” as was suggested above) to the co-worker that it stops with the two of them.
          I think it could be done effectively if she starts off by confessing to the co-worker that she realizes she shouldn’t have done it.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think it’s the end of the world to try, but it’s not likely to be convincing; the response to “I shouldn’t have told you” generally boils down to “But you did, so too bad.”

            1. neverjaunty*

              Right. “Do as I say, not as I do” is probably not going to be an effective approach here.

      3. Angela Ziegler*

        Yes, because on the off chance OP is wrong or misinterpreted something she found, making the coworker have to defend herself and prove that her husband was truly dead, and that her co-workers would even doubt her and think she lied about that, would be far more damaging to the situation.

        I’m not saying OP is mistaken necessarily, but you’d have to be completely and entirely sure before anything would be shared or brought to anyone’s attention.

      4. Bea*

        It sounds like she already did reel him in once. But I know this kind of stuff all too well, he just now does it without being near the OP.

        I don’t think anyone has an obligation to intervene except management if it turns into this person being bullied or frozen out.

        It’s a truly bizarre thing to stumble upon and that’s the risk you take telling people Dudebro is dead but having a semi public facebook with him added.

      5. moosetracks*

        What about something along the lines of “Hey, I realized that saying what I did about [coworker] the other day was wrong and unprofessional. I’ve thought about it some, and I realize that I was jumping to a conclusion and have no idea what that situation is. I just wanted to say sorry for putting you in such an awkward position with her based on my assumption.”

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yep this. Role model the behavior or approach you want your cohort to use, OP. Tell her you were wrong and you won’t be talking about it any more. If you stop talking then you are not throwing fuel on the fire.

  19. FormerHoosier*

    I once hired a woman who did something similar. She really did have a husband who was disabled but she used that to deliberately elicit sympathy and favors at work by telling stories that were untrue about her situation. As her supervisor, I did fall prey to this and did give her some benefits and leeway that I might not have otherwise because she was not a good worker. This was beyond general sympathy or even letting a few late arrivals for work be overlooked. It was a good lesson for me as a supervisor. The challenge is that it is natural for all of us to trust others especially when that person is a co worker and we don’t have an obvious reason not to trust. To be clear, the lesson I learned was not that employees aren’t trustworthy or are frequently liars but that I should not have allowed myself to be swayed by her situation and given her benefits that I would not have given otherwise. It was unfair to the other employees I supervised and caused problems when I had to terminate her.

    1. 100PercentAnon4Dis*

      All of this.

      Even in our private lives, we have to remember that everyone has a sob story, or can spin/manufacture a sob story if we truly require one in order to give them special treatment. If you give a person leeway to manipulate, they will.
      I am currently dealing with this in my own life, and if I had been on the ball from the get-go, things would be much, much different. I would not currently still have a houseguest who technically has rights to live/squat. I would have been proactive and called this person out on their bull immediately, but this person was used to lying and manipulating and they had a well-practiced sob story, and a child they dragged into the mix, and none of us wanted to see a homeless child, let alone a homeless parent; both fleeing from what (from their telling) was a very abusive home. At this point, with all of the other lies crumbling, we cannot be certain to what extent the abuses really were. Were there abuses? Certainly. Were they as bad as advertised? No. And some of the “abuses”? Most likely they were measures put in place to avoid this person’s manipulations, uses and abuses in general, and not actually abuses towards them.
      However, that is my personal mess to deal with. Managers can be proactive in not letting the sob stories affect their workplace. Life happens. Do what is legally required, but don’t excuse poor behavior and lacking worth ethic simply because someone can spin a good tale of woe.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I would just like to point out to the both of you that you both acted in a generous manner toward your fellow human being. This is not wrong, this is what we are supposed to do. The shame is not on the two of you but rather it’s on the manipulator. I would like to suggest to you that you don’t put your generosity in a cage or a lockbox.
      I have had to learn how to do a better job of picking who I will help and what types of situations I can go in on successfully. And I have to learn that sometimes I will make mistakes. I can jump to damage control quicker, if i have a good description of where my boundaries are.

      Better yet I can limit damage by promising random helps as opposed to steady help. You know some people are amazing. There are folks who will accept a small gesture and make it work in ten different ways to better their setting. And they accept that small gesture with grace and joy. These folks are a privilege to meet.

  20. Jess*

    I think I agree that not mentioning it is best…but OP, I hope you have a good poker face. I’m not confident I could pull this off without a flash of irritation or disbelief crossing my face when she begins telling yet another story about her husband’s death. Probably fast enough that she wouldn’t necessarily pick up on it while speaking, but a third party watching might. (I apparently cannot mask certain feelings whatsoever given how many people over the years have commented to me about reading reactions on my face—when I think I have not visibly reacted whatsoever.)

    I can’t think of a way to frame a conversation with her so that you’re allowing her to save face. If there is a way you can provider her an “out,” it might be worth bringing up just to put an end to the charade. Because these kinds of things have a way of coming out sooner or later. Someone else may discover it on their own and not be so discreet about it. But I’d probably only bring it up if there is some way to make the conversation exceedingly non-accusatory and gives her a way to save face.

    1. Afiendishthingy*

      I’m not capable of showing no reaction whatsoever. So when someone is saying something and I’m thinking WHAT THE ACTUAL F***, I make a concerned/interested/concentrating face. So much easier than trying to keep your expression “blank.”

    2. Anna*

      Oh man oh man, this definitely. Especially if there’s a time someone forgives bad behavior because of her situation. I’d be biting my tongue so badly.

  21. logicbutton*

    I hope he did fake his own death. Live your life with the confidence of someone who fakes his own death but stays active on Facebook.

  22. Joshua*

    I agree with Alison – this isn’t anyone’s business and no action is probably the most professional and tactful choice.

    Additionally, I recognize that there are various explanations and the coworker is not necessarily misleading. We don’t know the full picture.

    However, right or wrong – my trust for this coworker would be somewhat eroded. What if OP had less speculative evidence and truly knew that she was lying. Would that change the answer to this question? I recognize it’s still the coworkers personal business. But, isn’t a level of trust necessary for maintaining healthy work relationships?

    1. TardyTardis*

      And if this comes out, and the husband is actually dead, the co-worker is never going to trust the OP again, and since it will definitely get out if this confrontation occurs, nobody is going to trust the OP either.

  23. Tangerina*

    Oh gosh, if you ever DO figure out what’s going on here (and you need to accept that you might never), I hope we get an updated about how this a whole messy misunderstanding (instead of what I suspect: the “widow” is a compulsive liar)

    1. Shades of Blue*

      I feel like the co-worker is going to crack and confront the other co-worker…eeeee!

      1. sunny-dee*

        I know it’s horrible, but there is a big part of me that hopes this happens so I can get closure.

  24. nnn*

    Are we sure the man on facebook is her husband, rather than someone else with the same name? Sometimes family members get named after each other, or multiple family members get named after the same person.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Yes, this. There was one time when a group of people from my primary school class had been discussing a possible 25 year reunion, and this one guy said “We are always going to be one short, Fergus Smith died a few years ago.” There was lots of talk about possible tributes, until eventually Fergus’s best friend Apollo replied saying it was his cousin with the same name who had died and our Fergus was fine.

    2. Loose Seal*

      I worked with a guy who, after coming back to work after a family reunion weekend, told me that in his family, all the baby girls are named the same first and middle name. And since lots of them have the same last name, it can get confusing. They had counted up during the reunion and there were 27 women and girl cousins with the exact same full name and 38 more with the same first and middle but a different last name (all living; they didn’t count deceased relatives with the same name). And it wasn’t a common name; it was something like Nedra Lusitania Jenkinson. I cannot imagine how hard it will be in the future for genealogists!

      1. nnn*

        I have never wanted to know the significance of a name more!

        Does that mean that all sisters within a nuclear family have the same name? That seems like it would cause confusion! (I mean, having the same name as your aunts and cousins could also cause confusion, but multiple same names in one house is a whole other level of confusion!)

        1. Loose Seal*

          It did! I asked this! He said most people went by nicknames within the family.

          This was about ten years ago that we worked together so I don’t think I can casually ask on FB where they got the original name. I wish I had asked that at the time.

      2. LurkieLoo*

        “I’m Larry, this is my brother, Darryl, and this is my other brother, Darryl,”

  25. Miss Fisher*

    I had a co-worker similar, she made up a disabled grandchild, the age difference between her and her husband (to make it sound like she was like 13 and he 25 when they married, a # of grandchildren, great grandchildren, children… the list goes on. Anytime a new employee started we would all just laugh silently as she filled this person in and then we would pull them aside and let them know. I don’t know how she kept all her lies straight. She would always have some story about how one child was always in another country when there was some peril going on or show pictures of the devastation that happened to her house which were all stills taken from news stories. No one ever really said anything to her. Most of this came to light after her husband passed away and people went to the funeral or read to obit which did not at all match up with what was said. She retired recently and I don’t believe anyone ever confronted her.

    1. mcr-red*

      I had a similar thing at my work! And everything came out at the funeral! Everyone’s mind was blown. No idea why anyone would make that stuff up and keep it up for YEARS.

  26. Interviewer*

    I wonder what her current boyfriend thinks happened to the previous husband. I also wonder if there’s really a current boyfriend.

    1. savethedramaforyourllama*

      well clearly her profile pic doesn’t have him in it, so it can’t be all that serious ;-)

      1. Loose Seal*

        If I happened to get a selfie with Alton Brown, that would be my profile pic forever! My husband would understand.

  27. Narise*

    I just watched a British murder mystery where a sister was obsessed with her dead brother and treated her SIL horribly because she had no place else to go. At the end of the show it was revealed that her brothers body-now just a skeleton- was in the private room the SIL was never allowed to enter, all laid out and dressed. I’m now picturing this employee with a similar shrine in her home.

    1. Myrin*

      Ah, the Midsummer Murders one, I assume? I’ve seen that at least twice, for whatever reason.

        1. Miss Fisher*

          I still miss Jones and Charlie, I am not at all feeling the new guy. I have noticed these British shows switch casts so often, but from what I can tell, they dont pay quite the same like American shows do. So maybe it just isnt worth the money to commute to be on these shows.

  28. Angela Ziegler*

    Anyone scared of a worse-case scenario where OP was mistaken, the co-worker’s husband really died like she claimed, and trying to ‘out the lie’ at the office would explode into a terribly damaging situation? If the widow is legit and has been grieving her husband all this time, it would be a slap in the face for her office to not only say her husband is *alive* but to accuse her of lying about it for years just for attention and sympathy. That’s the sort of thing that could do some real damage.

    1. Doug Judy*

      Oh yes, I fear no good can come of making a big deal about this. At best OP is right an it’s just an oddity, at worst she’s wrong and could cause irreparable damage to her reputation and hinder workplace morale.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Having seen this happen before, yes absolutely.

      There was a story, oh a decade or so ago, on livejournal where a woman talked about losing her child and a whole bunch of people claimed it was fake because the child shared a name with a fictional character, but the story was legit.

      1. Sylvan*

        I think I remember this. Some ghoul actually called the funeral home. After seeing that, I’m thinking it’s best for OP to make sure they are absolutely certain that their coworker is lying before doing anything.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Multiple people did, if I recall correctly. Because someone posted the obit and people claimed it was fake.

          1. MsSolo*

            A surviving fandom wank archive! Yasssss!

            And oh, I should definitely have considered the NSFWness that it was so inevitably going to be (clicking beyond the linked post to the blog).

      2. This Daydreamer*

        I remember that! The person who contacted the funeral home never seemed to think there was anything wrong or even weird that she did that.

    3. tusky*

      Yep. There are so many possible explanations, it honestly seems kind of mean to assume the worst of the coworker.

      1. sunny-dee*

        It’s … really hard to imagine, though. The husband died 7 years ago but is still updating his FB page and she is commenting on new photos on her dead husband’s page? And she has a boyfriend who is upset that she’s wearing her dead husband’s engagement ring, but that boyfriend isn’t on her FB but 7-years-long dead husband is?

        There could be some incredibly serpentine explanation, but this isn’t a woman who has dropped tiny hints of information over time. She talks about husband and boyfriend frequently and gives a huge amount of backstory, but somehow doesn’t reconcile these really weird (and obvious) issues?

        1. tusky*

          She could have 2 previous husbands, one of whom did not die. It could be a page that the deceased husband’s family/friends maintain and use to communicate periodically. Her boyfriend could be upset about the ring because he’s a jealous tool, and could be on facebook but have privacy settings such that non-friends wouldn’t see him. Those are just a few not-far-fetched ideas that come to mind, and I’m sure there are other slightly-more-far-fetched but still plausible explanations. And if the explanation/story isn’t weird, I see no reason to think she would have necessarily called attention to these details.

          1. sunny-dee*

            But then why would she say that her boyfriend was upset about her wearing her dead husband’s ring if there was an intervening husband? And if there were another husband, why wouldn’t she be wearing his ring?

            1. tusky*

              People who are grossly jealous tend not to be assuaged by rational arguments, and might see the presence of the ring as a threat no matter what. Maybe the living husband is husband #1 and the deceased husband #2.

              Different relationships mean different things and leave different legacies. Maybe the relationship with husband #2 did not end on amicable terms and thus did not warrant being remembered. Maybe husband #2’s ring was swept away into the ocean and could not be replaced. Who knows? the point is none of these things are that far-fetched.

            2. Doug Judy*

              You are assuming that the profile that OP found is in fact the one of the man her coworker claims is dead. It doesn’t even have to be a former husband that OP found. It could be just a relative of her coworker’s that had the same name as her late husband. As many people have pointed out, it’s not that unusual at all for people to have the same names in families. OP has not cleared up why she believes the profile she saw was her coworker’s husband, it’s seems like it’s just the name. The same name a lone would not lead me to conclude that my coworker was lying.

              1. sunny-dee*

                But she didn’t do a separate search — she saw a post by her coworker referencing her husband, and click the link to his profile. So that man was identified by the coworker as being her husband. And he was posting photos in January.

            3. chi type*

              I think the idea is that there’s a still-living ex (amicable divorce) followed by a new husband who then died (and she’s not over, still wearing his ring) and now a boyfriend (being reeeeal patient about all this).

        2. Girl friday*

          People have enough trouble reducing their own cognitive dissonance, let alone the cognitive dissonance of other people.

  29. Wendy Darling*

    Oh man, I would have such a hard time with this. I completely agree with Alison that it’s not affecting her work and it’s nobody’s business, but also it’s so weird that I would super want to know what was up. Like not even because I’d treat the coworker differently but just because I’m super nosy and not knowing pains me. I have to remind myself that people are not books and I do not get to be mad if their loose ends aren’t tied up.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      I have to remind myself that people are not books and I do not get to be mad if their loose ends aren’t tied up.

      That’s such a fantastic framing. (Files away for my own nosy temptations.)

  30. Elizabeth*

    As a young widow, I have two comments.

    One is to echo others that the OP needs to seriously consider that this is a misunderstanding, even though I don’t quite see how it would have arisen. If this coworker is still wearing her old engagement ring and talking publicly about herself as a widow (unless she is *only* doing that at work??), it is impossible for me to imagine how a lie like this wouldn’t be revealed very quickly. Has her new boyfriend never met her family or any longtime friends?! If he thinks she’s a widow, wouldn’t that come up at some point? Can’t he see the same stuff on Facebook that the OP saw?

    (My own boyfriend comes to memorial events that friends and I do for my late husband periodically, and will meet my former in-laws in the near future, because they are part of my family. Everyone does widowhood differently, but I still can’t imagine her boyfriend thinking she’s a widow and the truth not coming out. Particularly if she’s in the habit of talking about her late husband a lot–that only increases the chance her boyfriend would mention him to her friends or family, as a normal topic of conversation.)

    Second, if this *is* actually a lie, it is going to be a work problem in the future. Because it is only a matter of time before someone else in the office has a spouse die, and more likely than not they are going to feel a special kinship with their coworker who they believe has had a similar experience, and perhaps talk about it with them. And I honestly can’t fathom the betrayal I would feel if that were me and then I found out it were a lie. I am generally really good at putting personal dislike aside at the office, but I would have a lot of trouble working with someone after that — it’s just such an emotionally charged context in which to feel lied to.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Oof I’m so sorry for your loss.

      Your last paragraph makes a point I didn’t consider before. There is no way I would be able to respond professionally if shortly after my mother passed away I learned a coworker was faking a death of their parent. I would not be able to work with them, and would probably resign if I was pressured to do so.

    2. nnn*

      (unless she is *only* doing that at work??)

      My brain just wrote a story where she is only doing it at work, because early in her career she lied about being married for whatever reason (choosing the name of a real-life person as the name of her husband), and then didn’t want to keep up the lie any longer but had to do something about the fictional husband.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      My friend had an odd situation at work. Coworker 1 said she lost a child in her family. For reasons, people did not really believe her. Then coworker 2 announced they had lost a child a few years back. This story didn’t seem to ring true, but it did not matter. So my friend told Coworker 2 that they should try talking with Coworker 1 to see if they can help.

      It seem to be a good way to handle things. If either 1 or 2 were lying that would bubble to the surface shortly. My friend said she thought Coworker 2 never said anything to Coworker 1. The story line ended shortly after that.
      Sometimes offering real ideas with sincere intentions is enough to get a handle on this stuff.

    1. curly sue*

      Agreed. My grandmother is on marriage #4 and kept the surname of husband #3 — both because she’d had it for 30+ years before he died, and because she didn’t feel like doing the paperwork all over again in her 70s.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Except, that is her husband, at least through January. Because the OP found a post that explicitly mentioned him as her husband that he had responded to, and so she found his profile. He has the same name as dead husband and was also her husband for multiple years. He could have exactly the same first and last name as dead husband and then they got divorced and now she has a boyfriend and she just never stopped wearing one of those wedding sets … but it’s weird. That’s not going Occam’s Razor on this.

        1. Loose Seal*

          Specifically, she’s wearing the engagement ring on her right hand. It’s not the wedding band and it’s not on the original finger (I’m assuming). Everyone puts different weight as to the importance of wedding jewelry. Maybe she just likes the ring. And she has every right to wear it without having to justify it, even to her boyfriend.

          For my first marriage, I didn’t have any jewelry because I was in a time of my life where I wanted to live simply. (Then it became much more simple just to live without First Husband. Ha!) For my second marriage, I got a very pretty engagement ring because I liked it but I didn’t get a wedding band because I thought it would be too much for my finger. I was just as married/divorced regardless of my ring choice.

    2. Quickbeam*

      My parents died when I was a kid. I don’t talk about it to anyone. Someone at a different job once asked me about my mother and I let them know she had died. For some reason this person felt an urge to dig around in my life and confronted me about a living “Mrs. Harry Quickbeam”. I pointed out that was my father’s second wife who was only 10 years older than me. It made for a really annoying conversation and a very unpleasant memory.

      I’ve also had people go to (or whatever) to capture my parent’s headstones. and share them with me. Yes, I know what they look like. I think with me it was a case of orphan fascination…people don’t think it’s possible that people are orphans anymore. They like to ask questions.

  31. MicroManagered*

    I just want to say that a former friend used to tell me pretty regularly that I reminded him of his older sister who committed suicide. Then, I found out via Facebook, that the sister is alive and well. There was a whole narrative associated with it–she’d been driving drunk, got in an accident, killed someone, and committed suicide rather than go to prison. He showed me pictures of her, so I knew what she looked like. I was late to the Facebook party (and still never really took to it) and when I finally did get on there, I connected that the sister who killed herself was the same one that was messaging him. She even had a family photo (that I’d seen before!) as her profile pic–like no question that it wasn’t her.

    People are so strange.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Did you ever call out the friend or find out why they made up this whole story?

      1. MicroManagered*

        I didn’t. We’d kinda already been growing apart for other reasons, and I saw no benefit to confronting him. There was no answer he could give that would’ve been like “that’s a valid reason” so I just let that be the thing that made me fully let go without regret.

  32. Anonforthis*

    I’m inclined to think this could be a weird misunderstanding – like maybe there’s a second husband in there somewhere? I don’t know that I’d necessarily jump to the conclusion that she’s lying.

  33. Nita*

    Hmmm… I did once have a coworker who claimed her husband died (not true, but he may or may not have almost died at one point). When she quit in a spectacular cluster-mess a few months later, it turned out that a lot of her life stories were only 50% true, and no one is quite sure which bits she made up. In hindsight, it seems to have been part mental breakdown, part plea for sympathy. It was pretty sad and I hope she’s doing better.

    It’s still possible that the coworker’s situation might be a misunderstanding. A very unlikely one, kind of on the soap opera level, but it’s possible.

    1. Manders*

      Yep, I’ve known a few people like this. To be honest, I don’t fully understand what makes people behave this way. I used to get very indignant every time I caught someone in a lie, but my strategy now is to remain polite but reserved. Don’t volunteer to help them (beyond the amount that you’d normally be willing to pitch in at work), don’t be their shoulder to cry on, just accept that their stories are not going to be the literal truth and you don’t need to constantly offer support and sympathy.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        The one thing I see with people like this is that they feel unloved and no amount of love is going to help them. So they take substitutes such as sympathy and that is how they finally feel loved. The problem is if they are not getting sympathy this day/hour then they are not feeling loved.

  34. ArtsNerd*

    I just want to say that while it’s perfectly possible OP’s interpretation is correct, it’s also absolutely possible that as others have mentioned, it’s a family member with the same name (thinks back to cousins with unpsoken “the third” and beyond).

    OR that the profile is indeed of the deceased husband and there’s something else going on there. I have friends whose family members post from time to time as their profile in a way to share memories or moments of grief. (I unfollowed them but they are absolutely within their rights to do so.) Or maybe the complex fantasy is involved in his facebook account and not the way she discusses it.

    The moment you make this revelation public is the moment you’ll find out whether you are horribly, horribly mistaken. Steer clear.

    1. nonymous*

      To take this one step further, it could even be that the deceased guy is her ex-husband/ex-life partner. When my dad died, one area I was really surprised at was the strength of his ex-wife’s expression of grief, which was needy and grasping and all-consuming in a way that completely swamped out the option for others to mourn. Something similar could be happening here – not healthy, but understandable.

      Having said that, people’s response to grief is also quite varied, and if the LW wanted to pull back her emotional support in a way that doesn’t cause drama, that would also be within social norms.

  35. knitcrazybooknut*

    Anyone else flashing on Black Books? It’s a slightly different situation, but still. (Comedic version – Boyfriend was told his girlfriend is dead, uses her loss to get sympathy for his (possibly real but seemingly fake) despairing sadness. Of course then it’s revealed she’s alive and well and living in Kensington, via cell phone of course. He then calls her and when asked how he is says, “Fine. Oh no actually, I’m dead.”)

  36. Happy Temp*

    I get that finding out a coworker could POTENTIALLY be telling what seems to you like a significant lie is…surprising, I guess. But even there, if it’s not affecting YOU and YOUR work, I don’t see how it’s any of your business, especially if you aren’t SURE exactly what is going on.

    But I think there is a second problem that maybe I’m the only one upset about? I would be appalled if I was out of work for having and recovering from surgery and a coworker of mine did not have my phone number (which…would be deliberate, on my part) and decided to track me down anyway. I would be even more upset if they used Facebook Messenger not even to contact me, but to start going through my Facebook page and then the Facebook pages of people connected to me! This seems such a huge overstep. And if I came back to work and a coworker pulled me aside and started a conversation by saying “While you were out I went through your social media and then looked at the social media of the people on your page and I noticed that…” I would be freaked out, actually!

    How would you even address this to a manager, if you wanted to point out she got special treatment (job saved) when you now think she didn’t deserve it? “I didn’t have her phone number, so I tracked her down on social media, then I looked at the social media pages of people on her page, and then…”

    While the coworker might have problems, I think OP and her gossipmate need to take a hard look at how enmeshed in someone else’s business they are, as well.

  37. Michaela Westen*

    I’m not one of the digging-inclined. I think if it was me I would probably put the shovel down and keep in mind whenever she mentions anything personal, it might not be true. And verify whatever she tells me about work.
    OTOH, if I had the time on my home computer away from work, I might poke around in the public records to see what actually happened… just so I’d know what her lies (if any) are…
    To me it seems important to know how far she goes with big lies, because it would inform how to deal with her and especially how much to trust what she says. *But* I would not do any investigation at work from a work computer – partly because it could be tracked by spyware, partly because I might get caught, partly to remove temptation to share with a coworker.
    I know someone who cheats on her husband and takes financial advantage of her friends and pretends she’s not doing any of this. I had known her socially for about 10 years before I got close enough to know what she’s doing. These things are important to know so we can protect ourselves from the consequences of their lies.
    So I guess it comes down to, how much does it affect the OP’s work? If not at all, she can let it go and probably should move on in spite of curiosity.
    But if it does, then maybe do a little public-records investigating.
    Either way, don’t mention or discuss it with the coworker who shared in it, so it (hopefully) won’t escalate.

  38. Nox*

    Ah, this is an example of #MYOB is best. You would I think look like a bigger jerk for digging around at people’s personal stuff than she would for faking a dead husband. Its silly yeah but this opens you up to more drama in the long run….I wouldn’t of even shared with the officemate…that’s gossipy af.

    Like I’m more worried about this poor lady that got snooped on at this point.

    1. Temperance*

      I really disagree with you on this point. FWIW, a friend of mine is a young widow, and I would be horrified to think that anyone else faked losing a husband for attention/favors. It’s a horrible thing to go through.

      I’m also a big believer in “if you don’t lie, you don’t have to worry that people will find out that you lied”.

      1. Rainy*

        I was a young widow, and I’m inclined to give OP’s coworker the benefit of the doubt, because shit is often complicated and also if it were me I wouldn’t have FB-stalked my coworker about their husband’s death.

        I am actually horrified at the idea that someone would think it’s cool to try and disprove anyone’s widowhood, because I know I would find it intrusive and incredibly painful if someone did it to me and then marched up to me and told me that they thought they’d discovered I was lying.

        1. Elizabeth*

          Same. It’s super horrifying either way (the idea of someone lying about this experience or the idea of someone questioning your widowhood, even privately).

          1. Rainy*

            I had several friends who were widowed in a three-year span of time around my husband’s death, and we called it “the worst club you never signed up for”. I don’t know if I could have made it without them.

            I know someone right now who, a year post Some Dude dying, is claiming to be his widow. They’d been casually dating for a month or less. It’s kind of annoying and silly, and sometimes I want to be really shitty to her, but I’m better than that, and she’s pretty notorious for desperately needing people to feel sad for her, which until now has mostly been around her terrible choices. She finally found an occasion of pity that isn’t about her making a self-destructive life decision! Go her! Or something.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              I have a friend who refers to herself as a widow and at first it kind of tweaked me because they weren’t legally married, but then I realized that the level of commitment and the circumstances surrounding the death were comparable and it was none of my business how she chose to identify.

              1. Rainy*

                My late husband and I were common-law and some acquaintances have had the poor taste to “correct” me. It was pretty hurtful. Especially under the circumstances: we’d been together over a decade; we started dating when I was 21, and I nursed him through two serious health crises and then his subsequent chronic illnesses and disability, and I’m the one who cleaned out the house, made decisions about his remains, made sure his possessions were distributed as he would have wished, planned his memorial, kept his estranged family from ruining his memorial–everything. But sure, whatever.


                1. Elizabeth*

                  Oh, I’m so sorry that that happened to you. It would take me a long time to get over someone I know denying my identity around this stuff.

            2. Michaela Westen*

              Yes, I’ve known a few people who self-sabotage and expect people to feel sorry for them and/or help them. I think the best thing you can do with this one is distance yourself. I would never want to be more than distant, passing acquaintances with such a person. They’re more focused on playing their mind game than being good to their friends. :p

              1. Rainy*

                Yeah, I stay far away but hard not to hear about her shenanigans as we move in overlapping social circles. Sigh.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          Yeah I’m. more “concerned” about the OP feeling the need to FB stalk the coworker than whether the coworker is really a widow. Is it actively harming OP/affecting coworker’s work? Is OP a supervisor or are OP and other coworkers just nosey Rosies minding other peoples’ business?

          My mom and step-dad were married 27 years. When he died she became a widow. She was with her last boyfriend like eight years and lived together most of that time effectively as husband and wife doing all things jointly as married couples do. There is no common law in Washington state so an actual marriage would require a trip to the courthouse, paperwork, etc. They’d become engaged about three months before he died.

          Everyone that knew them considered them for all intents and purposed as “married.” Their mutual friends referred to my mom as his widow even though they’d not gotten to the courthouse before his sudden and untimely death. My mom never called herself his “widow” but pretty much everyone that knew them did. Since she wasn’t going around making a point of correcting one and all, didn’t wear a button that said “not Lee’s widow” I guess she was “lying…”

          This all happened years before FB/other social media, so I guess that’s something.

    2. Jessie the First (or second)*

      I…. don’t get this at all. I don’t care that OP clicked through a few public pages and looked through a few public photos on a public web site that the people involved all posted there themselves. It is not a big deal.

      If the coworker is pretending to be a widow and made up a heartbreaking story and none of it is true? That’s some damage, right there. That is a big deal, and wow.

      (But fwiw, I would also not assume that coworker is lying. For peace of mind, and because I would know I have only a little information and not all of it, I would choose to assume there is a rational explanation that does not involve coworker lying – such as she was married more than once and is referring to a different husband, or that the FB guy is dead and his family members are posting to his page in memory, or some other third thing.)

      1. sunny-dee*

        I wouldn’t spread rumors without asking, even if the conversation were awkward, but if the coworker is lying, that would be a HUGE deal to me.

  39. Hiring Mgr*

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with searching/snooping/whatever you call it. In some ways I think we’re all hard wired to be curious and gossip a bit, etc.. But i think it’s MYOB at this point–you don’t know the whole story and it’s not that relevant anyway

  40. Anyone Anywhere*

    So it’s possible her husband is dead.
    I know someone whose sister died, and she had the sister’s Facebook password- so she maintained a Facebook presence after the sister died as an in memoriam thing. (note: this Facebook page wasn’t a “Remembering Jane Doe” type page)
    So people would post old photos and she would respond with things like “thanks for sharing the great memory” and all that.
    It was weird, but not unheard of.

  41. Undine*

    If you hadn’t told anyone, I would definitely say you should drop this, but if it looks like it’s going to get around work, you might want to give her a heads up so she can somehow get ahead of the problem.

    I’m coming at this from a different angle. My sister had a life-changing accident. Her boss knew what had happened, but we hadn’t made the details public at her work. While she was still in the hospital, a couple coworkers found our online blog (I think this was pre facebook, when we all had lower awareness of google-stalking) and found out what happened and I’m sure were bursting. So her boss phoned me and told me my sister needed to prepare a statement.

    I don’t know how to handle it in this case, where it’s not “someone has spilled the beans” but “I spilled the beans”. But if you find out coworker has told someone else, you should think about going to her and letting her know rumor is now rampant, or about to be.

    I realize this case is a little different, because there’s doubt as to what’s really going on. Presumably, if this really is a deliberate lie, she’s not going to take it well — but if it’s the truth, it could be devastating. Another option, if rumor gets going, is to talk to your boss or HR. Not in the spirit of “Coworker’s a confabulator”, but in the spirit of “I let this genie out of the bag, how can we do damage control?” Lie or truth, gossip like this can do a lot of damage if it gets going.

    1. Girl friday*

      It would be good to remember that finding out someone is alive and not dead is considered good news, not bad news. Running around the office saying that someone’s husband isn’t dead only makes one person look odd in my opinion. Of course, we’re supposed to be supportive of Op, but as with all good news, her coworker should be allowed to share it when she’s ready, if it’s true. Rumors are just noise.

  42. How long?*

    Alison, how long would you say a manager should give someone space after a death? I imagine the types of loss affect the answer, too. Spouse? Parent? Child?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s an answer far more nuanced than I can do justice to in a short comment, but it’s one reason why it’s so important to address performance issues when they first come up, rather them letting them linger. I’ve seen cases where someone had long-running performance issues, the manager dragged her feet in addressing them, and then right when she was finally gearing up to do it, the person had a really hard personal situation strike — and it would have been awful to fire the person then, when the situation had been allowed to go on for so long previously.

      1. sunny-dee*

        This happened where a friend of mine worked. There was a lady who had overrepresented some skills and wasn’t able to do a certain job she was hired to do, so she was being overpaid by about 50%. But her husband had cancer and he died and then their house burned down and they last everything, so the boss postponed firing her for almost a year … which actually killed their business profits and put the company at risk because they had a downturn in work that year (and it’s a small office, about 7 people).

    2. Rainy*

      If I may–I was widowed young and I was absolutely incapable of anything for 3 months after, and still in pretty bad shape at 6 months out. My memory didn’t start recovering for probably a year after he died. I would say that I achieved equilibrium around two years after he died. The time span during which I really needed people to cut me a break was about six months, but my work (I was in grad school) wasn’t back to my previous standards for over a year.

      This stuff is going to be so individual though. Some people do the thing where they block it all out and seem fine for months or years and then something happens and they can’t pretend and they go through the grief then like it all just happened.

      1. Elizabeth*

        My timeline was incredibly similar to yours. Thanks for mentioning memory recovery; damage to my memory was one of the hardest things to navigate at work. (The other was experiencing, and fearing, trauma triggers in random conversation at work. That lasted about a year for me.)

        1. Rainy*

          Grief presents in many ways like TBI–and in fact I read something recently that said that NSAIDs are helpful for people who are grieving because your brain swells like it had received an injury.

          The memory loss and lack of ability to concentrate were so hard for me. I have a notoriously good memory and I’m also a highly accomplished home cook, and I couldn’t make myself a meal for months because I couldn’t track on anything long enough to cook an egg without burning it.

      2. Nita*

        Rainy – if you don’t mind my asking, how can I best support someone going through such intense grief? My husband just recently lost his mom, and he’s very disoriented emotionally, and also seeing effects to his memory. I think he will be feeling the effects for a long time and am not sure what I can do to help. Other than being there, of course, but a lot of our daily responsibilities haven’t gone anywhere, so I can’t just be present as much as I’d like.

        1. Elizabeth*

          Not Rainy, but, suggestions:

          Grief groups really helped me (a lot more than individual therapy did), and men are a lot less likely to seek them out than women. If he’d be open to it, it might help him. (That said, some are a lot better than others.)

          Simplify your life as much as possible right now. A therapist told me to think about it like I had a chronic disease to manage. You just can’t do everything while grieving that you would other times. If you have savings that it wouldn’t be disastrous to spend… well, this might be a good time to shell out for extra paid house cleaning or child care or whatever else will make your life easier, if you can and that gives you space to breathe. Hard times are what money is *for*, IMO, and it’s OK if some longer-term goals slide (temporarily) to get through this time.

          Take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to ask friends for help. My experience is people want to help but don’t know how. If you can ask a friend to help either with a logistical task or with giving you space to vent about your own circumstances, so that you can be more present for your husband, that’s a really good thing to do. Do your very best to prioritize things that keep you sane (exercise? sleep!), though don’t beat yourself up when you can’t do everything, either.

            1. Nita*

              Thank you both, and I’m sorry for the losses you experienced… Elizabeth – interesting that you compare it to a chronic disease. It does feel so similar. The physical exhaustion, the brain fog, the knowledge that this is going to be our normal for a long time. Thankfully he’s not ruling out some kind of grief counseling, and we’ve had many people step up and take cooking (and occasionally, even child care) off our shoulders. It’s an unexpected village, and their help is very welcome.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              I agree, too.
              Bring other well chosen people into the mix. He does not need a flood of people but a couple well chosen folks would be a good idea.

              Talk about grief brain. We talk about chemo brain, right? Drag it out into the light of day. Work with memory triggers or find ways to streamline things. I bought a clip for my keys. I know me, I will set my keys down and not even realize. So I made it a habit to clip my keys to my purse or my belt loop. Janitor keys people tell me. Eh, whatevs. I know with grief I get very absent minded, I am not focused on current time or activity, I WILL lose my keys.
              One time I lost them for TWO weeks. Which is why I had made that spare keys and hung them in a small cupboard with other keys. (I knew they were in the house because I let myself in with them- then I tossed them god-knows-where.) Three times I locked myself out of my house. So I hid a key on the property. Each time I used it to get back in, I did not set it down. I marched it right back to hiding place before I did anything else. Oh yes, and I made a plan for when I lock my keys in the car at work. I had to use that plan twice.

              Okay so that is just talking about keys. I handled a lot of things this way. I put bills all in one spot so I made sure I paid them. If I let the dog out, I waited for him because if the phone rang I could forget him for a couple hours.
              Set things up so he has options if he forgets something or loses something. If he takes lunch to work have him put a $10 in an hidden spot in his wallet. If he forgets his lunch he knows he has
              emergency lunch money.
              Encourage him that this absent mindedness is normal with grief, many people have this problem. Tell him it will get better in a while, meantime he can double plan things so that he does not have too many serious problems.

              Bonus points if you can get him to chuckle at himself. Before I hid a spare key on the property I had locked myself out. I managed to open one window, as I was struggling to climb in, my beloved dog was on the inside wagging his tail and looking at me quizzically, “What are you doing, mom, why don’t you use the door like usual?” It was actually kind of funny.

        2. Rainy*

          Like, honestly just being there is the biggest thing. Not getting impatient with the process and the time it takes. The best thing you can do is get him into grief counselling though, and maybe a support group or two for people who have lost a parent.

          It takes a while, and it is very easy for people on the outside to get impatient and want the grieving person to just “be okay already” and it doesn’t work like that. It takes as long as it takes.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Time frame. I agree with Rainy’s 3 month and 6 month observations, totally.

        Statistically the mortality rate for surviving spouses remains high for TWO YEARS after the other spouse’s passing. And this covers all demographics you can think of- age, location, gender, race, nationality, income levels, anything.
        And I would agree with this one also. I was a robot for at least two years. And I found the second year was HARDER because the busyness of the estate work was over and people had returned to normal life. So the second year was unsettling.
        I did not start to feel human until the end of year 6. I thought to myself this is why old people are more apt to die within a short time of each other. It is simply too hard to continue on. Younger people might have better health or more resources to draw on so this maybe a factor.

        Having said all this, I do have to say that by far the worst heart break I have observed with grieving people is the loss of a child. So where losing a spouse is incredible, in my mind, losing a child is even worse.

        1. Rainy*

          My high school boyfriend was killed a few weeks after we graduated and I have almost no memory of the 3 months after his death. I woke up a little after that, but I’d gone off to university and would subsequently fail out into academic probation. I didn’t go back to finish my degree until I was in my mid-twenties, when I did very well indeed. I honestly don’t think I am the same person I would have been if he hadn’t been killed. In some pretty major ways, I didn’t really recover, I just adjusted. Some years later I lost an ex to leukemia; we were still close and that was very hard as well, though my late husband was very kind and sympathetic and that helped a lot. It also wasn’t as immediately, close-quarters devastating as losing someone you are still with. When my husband died, while I was still in the stunned shocky period before I really felt it, I said to a friend “I honestly don’t know if I’m going to make it this time.” Luckily I did, and life is so good and I’m so happy that I survived, but it was really rough, and the only thing about having gone through it before that made it easier was knowing that I’d done it once and was theoretically capable of doing it again.

        2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          I’m sorry for your loss and pain. Thank you for sharing your experiences here, it’s much appreciated. Your comments are always welcome and you have such insight and empathy.

    3. Hiring Mgr*

      Really good question…with no easy answers. This could be the subject of one of those “Throw it to the readers” things, or a podcast..

  43. Kaybee*

    Hey OP,

    I know occam’s razor and all, but I had a good friend die young, and his young sister will still comment using his Facebook account. It started off as giving notices to his friends via FB (memorial service, ways people could help, etc.) and… never stopped, even years later. At first it was shocking to see my dead friend active on FB, and while I’m less shocked now, I can’t say that I’ve ever gotten used to it. However, I’m not going to tell his family how to grieve, and sometimes I’m not entirely certain it’s intentional – like she forgot to sign out of his account or something before she posted. I don’t know that this is a super common thing, but it’s worth keeping in mind that just because he’s “active” on FB doesn’t mean he’s alive.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      I have witnessed something like this, my aunt had a nephew who was killed in a road accident, and on the day of his death one of their family members created a Facebook page for him and for a while afterwards someone was posting from his account. I did find it a bit shocking when I had tagged my aunt in family photos and the dead guy was commenting on them (I ignored the comments, which I couldn’t actually understand anyway as they were in their native language which I speak very little of).

    2. Thlayli*

      People used to do this a bit before FB started the memorialising option. There was also a trend for a while of burying someone with their phone and texting/calling them as part of grieving.

    3. bonkerballs*

      Same, I posted a similar story below. I actually think I’m currently still friends on facebook with three people who have passed away and who someone in their family still actively use their account.

      1. Kaybee*

        Yeah, in my dead friend’s case, his sister is obsessed with the photos on his FB page. She’s always adding to them, reorganizing them, adding to captions, tagging people, etc. It’s constant. And while she sometimes is clearly intentionally interacting with others from his FB account, her constant working with his photos is what leads me to wonder if she maybe interacts with others far more than she means to; I think because she’s always in his account messing with the photos, she may forget to logout and into her own account to comment as herself sometimes. Some of his friends are like me and don’t really know what to do about it. It’s really important to her that we interact on the photos, so sometimes we do. Some people can’t handle it and block him or have deleted him. And some people embrace it and are super interactive with her on his account. Anyone who didn’t know the back story could easily think he was alive.

  44. LSP*

    I am in 100% agreement with Alison that this is definitely something to stay out of.

    But, I would be so tempted to say to this woman, “What was your late-husband’s name again? Only I saw someone on Facebook the other day who was a friend of a friend who has that same name! What a coincidence!” Completely innocent tone, and then just let it lie. Maybe she’d be shameless enough to continue to talk about her ex husband as her dead husband, or maybe she’d take a hint and stop with the sob stories.

    1. Rainy*

      And I would say “oh crap, did the spammers get his account open again? Thanks for letting me know–I’ll get the process started for closing it down again. Are you okay? I know it’s rough to see someone seemingly resurrected on FB.”

  45. SameName*

    Just another person wanting to weigh in and say that, while I would be so curious about the truth, it is possible there’s something else going on here. My dad has a sister named (not her real name) Joan Martin. His brother married a woman named Joan, making her Joan Martin as well. My uncle named his first son after himself and his second son after my father, so if you pull them up on Facebook, there are two Dan Martins and two Keith Martins on all of our friends’ lists. So just be careful that you know for a fact this isn’t just a relative with the same name.

  46. loslothluin*

    Maybe he really is dead and your coworker is dragging him around like an office version of “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

  47. Guitar Hero*

    Am I the only one that thinks its weird OP felt the need to reach out after the employee had surgery? She has a boyfriend, presumably she has emergency contacts. If they were worried about her well-being, they could have sent an email or asked her manager to reach out on their behalf. I’d be annoyed if I had to field questions from coworkers in the days following surgery… I’m out of office for a reason.

    In my opinion, the boundary crossing started with the post-surgery texting.

    1. Temperance*

      … yes? I’m assuming that they work closely, and LW just wanted to let her know that the office is thinking of her.

      1. Delta Delta*

        That was my thought. I work with plenty of people whose personal phone numbers I don’t have but would certainly want to wish them well post-surgery. And even if we weren’t FB friends, I might use messenger to send a “hope you’re doing well” message.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      On its own, I don’t think that’s strange or problematic. If my colleagues-who-aren’t-also-friends texted me after I was out for surgery I’d be surprised but not disturbed.

      But combined with the Facebook digging, it does make the whole thing feel a little off to me.

    3. bonkerballs*

      That is so very, very office/coworker/your personality specific. I have had plenty of coworkers where of course we would text each other if one or the other of us was going into surgery. And I have had plenty of coworkers where this would be weird. There’s no way to have a hard and fast rule about this.

  48. Tom Collins*

    If she’s been telling people that her husband is dead and he is in fact alive that would represent some pretty bizzare behavior.

    This would lead me to question this individual’s fitness for a job. In fact if I didn’t repot bizzare behavior like this I could face discipinary action myself.

    It’s worth at least getting clarification- people should always be given a chance to explain themselves. But if true this should be reported.

      1. Bookartist*

        Hit ‘submit’ too quickly.

        Since no one is obligated to be truthful in social media, where would your company have standing to fire someone who lied there, or someone who uncovered it?

        1. Thlayli*

          Well… assuming the husband is actually alive, and she knows he is alive, she isn’t just lying on social media, she’s lying in real life.

          Which is legal grounds to fire someone in the US at least. But it would be unusual to fire someone for telling lies that don’t actually affect their work.

          Of course, given that she was apparently supposed to be fired previously and was only kept on apparently out of pity for her “widow” status, then perhaps it makes sense to fire her now.

          1. Bookartist*

            You can fire anyone for basically any reason in the US, so I don’t find that argument particularly compelling.

            1. Thlayli*

              Yeah. I know. I was assuming you didn’t know given that you asked above, twice, where someone could be fired for telling lies. If you knew the answer, why did you ask the question?

  49. Tom Collins*

    If she’s been telling people that her husband is dead and he is in fact alive that would represent some pretty bizzare behavior.

    This would lead me to question this individual’s fitness for a job. In fact if I didn’t repot bizzare behavior like this I could face discipinary action myself.

    It’s worth at least getting clarification- people should always be given a chance to explain themselves. But if true this should be reported.

  50. LavaLamp*

    My mom recently passed away; and it’s actually a pain in the butt to get someone’s page taken down or memorialized. I had to provide my mum’s death certificate. I understand why; but it’s also a good explanation of why someone can be dead and still have a Facebook account. I”m betting a lot of people don’t get around to taking them down or don’t realize that you CAN take them down/memorialize them.

    1. Courageous cat*

      I am sorry for your loss, but I’m not sure if you read the post fully. It’s not that his page was still up, it’s that it was altered very recently (allegedly he died several years ago), and people commented on it as one normally would on a friend’s post/picture change/etc.

      1. LavaLamp*

        Before I memorialized my mom’s page I could do pretty much anything I wanted with it. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone is keeping it open/logged into it. I guess that would depend on the content that was updated though.

        1. Courageous cat*

          Yeah I can see that – if it was just a picture change, I’d think that’s what happened. The fact that people commented on it like nothing was amiss is what would tip me off, though.

          1. bonkerballs*

            I don’t know. I’ve had a few friends who have passed away and people still post on their pages pretty frequently. Some of it, it’s obvious the poster is talking about someone who is dead, but not always. One in particular is still sort of “run” by the person’s sister and she will post things occasionally from the account (usually of the vague quotes about life and space and time and we’re all connected variety) and people will respond to those not realizing the guy is dead even though it’s been a good three or four years. Facebook is weird.

            1. Courageous cat*

              Yeah, I agree that it definitely does happen – I think I have seen it before too (though it’s been a while). I just don’t think it’s necessarily the most likely scenario, as I don’t think *multiple* people would respond to a picture change as though they were still alive, and there are ways comments can be phrased that could further confirm/deny that. I’m not even sure if I’m making sense anymore though haha.

      2. Thlayli*

        It’s also that his CURRENT WIFE (as of last January) commented on it.

        Of course, it’s possible that the person claiming to be the current wife is actually a creepy catfish Facebook stalker person…. he actually is dead and she is pretending to be married to him.

        We are getting into the realm of the weird here.

        1. tusky*

          I’m confused as to how OP would know it was the current wife. I rarely take the facebook relationship status at face value, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone continued to list their deceased spouse as their spouse.

  51. Just Another Analyst*


    But Alison makes a great point about workplace boundaries. The lie, while a very big one, shouldn’t have any impact on her work (unless she is using it for leverage, which doesn’t seem to be the case as Alison said) and therefore ultimately isn’t her coworkers’ business. It’s not like she’s lying about getting a college degree or having a certain job-necessary certification.

    I can think of a few aspects about my personal life that I would lie about to coworkers simply to avoid certain conversations at work. Perhaps she has the same line of thinking. Maybe the divorce was nasty and she feels ashamed, and saying he died helps her save face in public/avoid having to discuss it. It’s even possible that she didn’t intend to lie at first, that it started as a misunderstanding but instead of correcting it she just decided to go with it. Whatever the case, it’s not one that directly effects her work, therefore none of her coworkers’ business.

    But OP, you aren’t alone in wanting to know what happened, so if the truth comes out organically please provide an update!

  52. Margery*

    It would be interesting to know what the comments that had been updated said.

    I know someone who is dead an their facebook page is still live. People still comment on this page because before the person died they had raised a lot of money for charity.

    You don’t know for sure whether her (late) husband is dead or not just by reading that. It’s a shame your office mate now knows about it though.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yes this is true that there are facebook tribute pages and they are “kept alive” by family or friends. Sometimes even with the “deceased” posting as though they’re alive, like saying “thank you for the kind thoughts” or some such.
      I find such things odd, but whatever.

  53. Rocco*

    I used to work with a woman who had an imaginary boyfriend – I mean he was a real guy (a lounge singer famous on the local circuit) but he wasn’t her boyfriend, and had no connection beyond her being an overzealous fan. She would fake dramatic shouty phonecalls to him, faked a pregnancy and miscarriage, faked an engagement and spent her days telling us about him, all day, every day.

    It was an open secret in the office but we played along – because somewhere she had been through a trauma that led her to this. I’m not excusing it but she was troubled and this gave her some kind of comfort without really hurting anyone (except for crossing the line with the pregnancy and early miscarriage thing). People do strange things when they’re trying to cope with something and I’d be inclined to say to the OP let it be.

  54. ENFP in Texas*

    Not your circus, not your monkeys. Unless it’s affecting how you’re getting your job done (beyond “I’m so curious I’m gonna die if I don’t ask about it”) then it’s a huge NOYB.

  55. Lily*

    I think it’s far more likely that the Lw has got the wrong end of the stick than it is that this woman is a liar and has managed to convince everyone, including her boyfriend, of her alive-and-Facebook-active-husband’s death. This mess the LW created is likely going to explode in her face. :-/

  56. Rachel*

    This is very weird, but is there any possibility that she was married before, the guy on FB is her second husband, and the first husband is the one who died?

  57. CAinUK*

    So I’m 80% with Alison on this, particularly because: we don’t know enough from this info, and others have pointed out there could be possible (but perhaps not probable?) explanations for the situation (from multiple prior marriages, to relatives using a deceased person’s account in memoriam).

    BUT I diverge slightly because IF more info did reveal the co-worker is lying, that IS a work issue because (as Alison points out in other posts): it speaks to that person’s trust worthiness and ethics in a broader sense. So while it doesn’t change the outcome of Alison’s advice, I’d be inclined to watch/listen for more info.

    1. Argh!*

      People compartmentalize all the time. I wouldn’t assume from this that she couldn’t be trusted at work. It could also mean she can be trusted to keep a secret.

    2. RUKiddingMe*

      It might not be a character/morality/trustworthiness thing at all though.

      Ok, hopefully this makes sense to, well anyone other than me:

      1) First husband: Died

      2) Second guy I married: Referred to as “the bad ex” when I need to ever refer to him at all. Generally that’s only if I need to do so for legal reasons because “husband” would be a stretch of anything short of an absolute, pedantic dictionary definition.
      —i.e. I don’t count him at all unless the law requires me to for some reason.

      3) Current husband: Married 2006. Referred to as either “current” or “second” husband because screw that other guy that I married for some reason I still can’t fathom.

      4) Maybe the coworker has some sort of similar-ish type thing going on and it all makes sense inside her head even if it doesn’t jibe exactly with whatever punctilious criteria LW and Colleagues are using.

      So not a lie or concealing pertinent information. If someone needs to know, then they know. Otherwise it’s really none of their business and how I categorize them in my head is up to me. Ergo my first husband died and I am married to my second husband.

  58. anon4now*

    ….couldn’t the deceased husband have an identical twin (which could also explain the same last name thing if she didn’t revert back to her maiden name)? Or more than one ex-husband?
    Did you see if there was an online obituary anywhere (or mention in the online paper) of her husband’s death? It seems like a strange thing to lie about, but if you wanted to passively address this with her, why not add her to your social network or “like” the posts where so she’s responding to her (clearly alive) ex-husband, or start getting specific: “when did did he die again? What did he die of?” etc.
    The more likely explanation, I think, would be that she’s embarrassed about something regarding her last marriage or a pathological liar, neither of which really make sense for you to be intrusive about regarding her though.

  59. Ally*

    The liar coworker is going to find out very soon. It’s going to get back to her. While the advice to OP is good to stay out of it, it’s probably too late. She needs some language on how to respond to the liar coworker when confronted about why she was looking at her Facebook like Sherlock Holmes.

  60. Granny K*

    Lot’s of speculation trying to make the ‘widow’ legit. My take is that she may be a pathological liar. I’ve worked with a few people over the years that were pathological liars. (One told me her husband worked for the CIA. I’m not making this up.) You learn how to spot them over the years: very charming, animated, lot’s of oversharing, lot’s of personal drama.
    Not sure if this woman is being manipulative playing the grieving widow, or legit, but either way….as a coworker of this person, don’t share anything personal with her, and watch your back.

    1. CurrentlyLooking*

      If her husband actually worked for the CIA, then she wouldn’t be telling people he was.

  61. Turtle Candle*

    A friend has a concept that he calls “Occam’s Shaving Cream,” which is exactly for situations like that. This is because while it may be the simplest (and, sadly, often true) to believe that someone is lying, or a jerk, or whatever, if you have to maintain a positive relationship with them, it can be useful to focus on the other not-terrible reasons why something might be happening. The example he gave was of a coworker shutting a door in your face. Yeah, maybe they’re being rude. Or maybe they’re on cold medicine and not thinking clearly, the wind got behind the door and yanked it out of their hand and slammed it shut, they just realized that their special ops handler was going to give them their next self-destructing message and they couldn’t let you see it for your own safety… okay, probably not the last one. But you get the picture. In this case, it would be… yeah, okay, HUGE likelihood that she’s lying. But if it makes it easier for you and your coworker to cling to the Shaving Cream of “but it’s POSSIBLE that it’s a mix up, an ex with the same name, some other relative/friend with the same name, a memorial page, a weird Three’s Company situation where someone else is impersonating her husband to fool the Roepers, or his ghost communicating with her via the magic of Mark Zuckerberg,” it may make it easier to hold it in and not respond weirdly to her (or worse, tell everyone).

    Obviously you don’t use Occam’s Shaving Cream for things that are abusive, harassing, actively harmful, damaging to the business, etc. (Like if someone keeps touching a woman who doesn’t want to be touched, you shouldn’t Occam’s Shaving Cream an excuse for them that they have a neurological disorder that forces them to grab Sarah in the break room. Because even if they do, Sarah deserves not to be grabbed in the break room. Or if someone isn’t doing their job and is letting everyone else carry them along, you don’t have to Occam’s Shaving Cream up a series of reasons why they totally should remain employed while doing no work.) But for things that are merely odd, or vaguely offputting but harmless, or even downright bizarre but still harmless (and not related to work)… Occam’s Shaving Cream has made my life much easier, with friends, with colleagues, and simply with not getting into BEC territory with people as frequently.

  62. The Rat-Catcher*

    I think this theory of OP’s relies way too much on Facebook. It’s extremely easy to misinterpret your findings on spcial media the more you go digging. I’d leave it alone because there are just too many ways for this to blow up in your face.

  63. Ellie*

    I know I’m late, but I think the most likely scenario is that someone (probably the coworker but it could be his parents or other family) is still updating his facebook page so that on first glance it looks like he is still alive.

    I have a close relative who died after a long illness, and left a devastated husband and children. She was a very strong, positive, life-of-the-party type, and her friends still wish her a happy birthday every year, and her husband updates her profile pictures and status regularly. Every time he comes across some new photos he posts them, with neutral comments like, ‘thanks for a wonderful evening, what a great party’. Unless you looked at her children’s pages (and you’d have to look hard… in five pages of updates there might be one or two ‘missing you’ style of posts), you would not know she had died. It’s really sad but it seems to give him a lot of comfort, and from the sound of your coworker (talking about him, wearing the ring, etc.) she may well be the same.

    I think it’s definately best to leave it alone, but if you can’t, maybe go back to facebook and try to find some more information/read other friends pages, looking for links. You can get quite a bit of information from googling someone’s name, it will pick up instagram, linkedin, etc. You might find a simple explanation and save you and your friend some worry.

    1. Michaela Westen*

      But *do not* do this at work! It can be tracked, and most companies use spyware.

  64. MostCake*

    I had a coworker who lied about everything you can imagine, to your face, nonstop contradictory lies within minutes of contradictions, for three years. Her lies were bizarre – never malicious, often mundane, but maddening because any confrontation about it just brought forth more lies. She spewed lies! She lied about her work and her family and her romantic relationships and her personal life, what she was wearing, who she met during the day, what she had for dinner, you name it. Her mother died regularly, and her own daughter even once. According to her. She was a very unstable lady and her work product as well and we all got stuck fixing it. Which became a hot topic among the coworkers cause that’s just wrong. We don’t show up at work all rattled and half-slept and start spewing lies and neglect our work because our personal life is so upheaved! No fair! But our big bureaucracy pretty much slotted us all in like spoons and minus any glaring defects we all got treated the same. So that was disappointing and we started pouncing on her lies and exposing them with cursory internet discoveries like property records and facebook posts. In the end, she did herself in by trying to claim leave for a bogus situation and doubling then tripling down on it and one day she just wasn’t there. Which was no kind of satisfying to us who wanted to see flames! But really? We all actually kind of liked her on a personal level cause like I said, she was never malicious – it was management we wanted to see squirm for their lack of respect for the rest of us, which was more painful cause it’s a reality check when you see in your face you’re just a metric and as long as the bottom line is fine, it’s all good and who cares about you trying extra hard.

    So yelling someone down for 15 minutes is like a speed-read session of disrespect. You verbalize some variation of “I’m not a dog – what’s your problem” and if the company won’t back you up, you’re just another spoon in the drawer and you might want to start looking for a new company if that bothers you.

  65. Alias Fakename*

    I wasn’t going to say anything because I’m clearly not in the majority (which isn’t accepted here very much) but this sat with me. I’ve been on the other side of this. I don’t share much at work, but at a new job I made a comment that I was going to class after work. A busybody coworker, such as yourself, looked up my information at the school, and saw that I was in a program where, if I were continuing, I would need to quit. They went to my supervisor to tell them I was using company money to get a better job. Had anyone cared to ask, I had gotten a new job because I wanted to enter a new field, and I had been accepted to and was entering a new academic program, one that was more in the field. Instead everyone wanted to draw their own conclusions.

    As someone who had a co-worker go through my personal information, draw the wrong conclusions, then go to my boss, you should do nothing. Also, you should look at your own behavior in this, because you clearly wanted to snoop, and you clearly are trying to distance yourself from what you know is wrong.

    Office busybodies are the worst. The absolute worst. If you have time to be a busybody, you have time to do your job more effectively.

    1. Rainy*

      I am so sorry that happened to you; what a horrible thing to be undermined at work by some nosy piece of crap.

    2. Girl friday*

      I’m lucky enough to have a few people that love me, some haters, evidently an anonymous faxer, and a background check that happily takes people halfway around the world. I commiserate with you too; at least you know that your life must be more interesting than theirs, and that they have plenty of time to make their lives as interesting as yours is before they’re your age. I’m in a good situation now full of good will, so I promise you your perspective will change as will theirs .

  66. Betsy S*

    Are you sure he is not dead? I had a friend who passed away and his wife continues to post pictures of him on his Facebook page, as him, in time with the seasons. To her they are happy memories but if someone just came by and saw a current picture with something like “Dear, I love how happy you look here” they might get the wrong idea. And I had to stop following his page because I found it so jarring to see new photos pop up.

    1. Kate*

      This. There are a lot of people who have passed but are still (via proxy) pretty darn active on social media.

  67. Girl friday*

    I can think of several possible explanations for this both that leave him alive and that leave him dead. You might assume that what she told you and what you saw on Facebook are both true until proven otherwise. You don’t actually know what he looks like; it could be a family name shared by several male relatives with spouses, for example. Or he could be an identical twin Etc. This is the penalty for your curiosity – eternal torment or possibly worse. :) You’re a total stranger, so the best revenge is not to care at all. It could have even been some kind of open relationship, obviously at least publicly a one-sided one. You just don’t know.

  68. JoAnna*

    Is it a possible that she’s had multiple husbands, and the one you found is her first husband? And the guy who died was her second husband?

  69. Louise*

    Have you searched his name or other details? Findagrave, Ancestry, etc. If you do enough searching you may find an obituary. If not, oh well, and either he’s not dead, didn’t have an obituary, or someone (maybe her) is posting for him. I’d just chalk it up to experience, and that “you just never know.”

Comments are closed.