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Did Her Husband Fake His Death or Is She in Denial?

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I have a very unusual problem. I do not know if my husband is dead or alive.

My husband, Steve, served in the Navy for more than 20 years. He passed away in May of last year -- or did he?

I always thought we had a great relationship. We got along great, we laughed together, we traveled a lot with each other, and he gave me wonderful cards that said how much he loved me. When he was gone on a truck route, he would tell me how much he missed us girls.

My son passed away six months before my husband; he had a 2-year-old little girl named Fendi. Steve and I were planning to adopt our granddaughter after our son's death. We had been raising her since she was a newborn. We had all the custody papers signed and notarized and were just waiting for our court date, which was scheduled for May 6. But Steve died on May 2.

A few days after Steve was pronounced dead, I went to the mortuary to make arrangements for his funeral and the mortuary employees told me that they had lost Steve's body and had not been able to locate him. Then, a few days later, I got a Skype call from Steve. I could see him on the screen but he did not speak, he just sat there and stared. I was holding up notes and adjusting my volume, but he did not respond. It especially scared me because I'd had to make a decision to take Steve off life support. I did so because the doctor told me that if he did wake up, he would likely never leave the hospital because he would be brain dead. I knew that Steve would never want that. So, when I got the Skype call, I was thinking that somehow Steve must have woken up and was lost and confused and couldn't speak, that he was brain dead just like the doctor said.

I was so freaked out by that Skype call! I thought that Steve was out there somewhere and lost. I confided in my mother, several other family members and some friends, and they all convinced me to calm down. They said that someone had just been messing with me, that it was some kind of a cruel joke. Later that day, I called the mortuary and they said they had located Steve's body. I asked if they were sure that it was him, and they said yes. Steve was cremated and we had his funeral, but I never was at peace with it because something inside me was telling me that he had not really died.

And then it got weirder because I started getting emails from him every few weeks. So I started digging and found documents that led me to believe that Steve was still alive. The documents stated that he was making deposits in a new bank account and another said that because he was still working, he could not draw the full SSI. I found a document that said he had a new vehicle and others that seemed to say he'd been applying for jobs. I found a notice that said he needed to change the PIN on his MyPay account. I received an email notification that said there was a new posting from Steve. When I opened it, there was a photo of Rottweiler puppies and it had the phone number of a guy that we had sent $500 last year to buy a puppy for our granddaughter.

Last week, I got a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs addressed to Steve with a 1095B Form in it for him to report to the IRS concerning the health care benefits it said he has been receiving for the last 12 months. If he was dead, it seems like the letter should have come in my name, but my name wasn't listed -- only Steve's and his Social Security number. Then I received an email from Chase Bank wanting to confirm some information, and I do not have a account with them, but I noticed in a file in Steve's computer that he did.

Steve had always told me that he carried a life insurance policy because he said he wanted to take care of me, but when he died he had nothing except an annuity for a $1,003 a month. Maybe if he'd had life insurance I could have kept our home. But the bank is foreclosing on it this month. So, in a year's time I have lost my son who I know is gone, and my husband who is gone one way or another, and I lost my home.

I could go on and on about this because there is so much more. I don't know if you can help me find out the truth or not. My heart is dying over all of this. I loved him so much and I just do not understand. Does the government fake deaths and hide it from the spouse? Are the ashes I have even Steve's? Someone is either messing with me horribly or Steve is really still alive. Please help me so that one way or another I can move on because right now I feel so lost, so stuck and unable to move forward.

-- Is My Husband Dead or Alive?

Dear Dead or Alive --

I'm very so to hear about your loss. Reading your letter, it's clear that 2015 was a significant year of loss for you. You lost your son and your husband within a month of each other. I can understand what you're going through because I have also experienced a year of significant loss. My mother died in April 2013 and my brother died a few months later. It was devastating. I was in shock and disbelief as I sat in funeral services. It was surreal for me. It felt like I was there, but at the same time I was not there.

Grief is a process. I believe you are still in the shock and disbelief phase of grief. You may even be in denial. You can't believe your husband is gone, so you think this must be a trick.

To be honest, I don't see a reason why someone, or the government, would want to fake your husband's death. Though I can't tell you to let go of this feeling you are having that your husband is still alive, I do think you should try to stay close to your family, friends and other social and spiritual supports to help you through this. This is a very tough time for you, I know. I wish I could help you more, but I think the ashes you have are really your husband's.

I'm sorry.

-- Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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