Going to my boyfriend's grandma funeral
November 21, 2013 6:44 PM   Subscribe

Hi, guys. My boyfriend's grandma died today of a brain tumor. I come from a culture where when someone dies you all go and spend time and mourn together with the close family of the dead. It is something similar to viewing in America. Now he calls me tonight and tells me she died and that the funeral is on Monday. Then he says that probably this weekend he will go home to his parents house and spend the weeken with them and that might be best if I don't go because I might not see them at their best and that way he gets to see them alone because he hasn't really spend any time alone with his family ever since we started dating. Like I said, I am Romanian and in our tradition you want exactly the opposite , people to come by and sit by your side. Is that a cultural change in America? Is he right? Is he acting goofy? Just don't know if I should just shut up and mind my own business? This is weird because he was ok before with me spending the entire weeken in the hospice. Tell me how would you react from an American perspective? We have different cultures.
posted by barexamfreak to Human Relations (43 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Personally, I think hiding your bad sides/vulnerabilities/emotions is a terrible part of mainstream American culture, but it is in fact a part of it. Your boyfriend is not unusual, and since a family member just died, it's probably a bad time to make a big issue of it.
posted by latkes at 6:46 PM on November 21, 2013 [7 favorites]

Have you met his family? In some American families, meeting a new boyfriend/girlfriend is kind of a "big deal" for everyone, so I could see why either your boyfriend or his parents might not want to do it during this stressful, sad time.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:49 PM on November 21, 2013 [8 favorites]

I think the answer will depend on your boyfriend's culture, family traditions, family circumstances and own boundaries. I would respect what he's asking. It doesn't make your traditions wrong or even un-American. They are just not the same as his family expectations. He may feel uncomfortable introducing you to his family in such an intimate setting and not want to cause them upset. He's mourning, so let him set his boundaries. I wouldn't see this as being about even culture - it's just who he is or who his family is. You could just as easily have met a guy who would want you there.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 6:49 PM on November 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

They met me a million times! I used to see them almost every weekend. More so I spent one weekend with him and his family at the hospice. And now he tells me that he wants to spend time with them? And I should go only to the funeral
posted by barexamfreak at 6:52 PM on November 21, 2013

It's definitely okay for your boyfriend to ask for privacy and time apart for himself and his family in the immediate stages of grieving. You can attribute this to culture if you like, but don't take it personally or challenge him about it.

If you're genuinely curious maybe after some time has passed you can have a conversation about different grieving practices, but not now.
posted by sundaydriver at 6:52 PM on November 21, 2013 [27 favorites]

There's not really a solidly standard reaction to grief in North American culture, so it's not necessarily a culture clash so much as a 'this is not what his family does'.

The one pretty much inviolable rule is that the people closest to the deceased get to decide how things are going to be done and everyone else falls in line. Since it's his relative, help him grieve the way he wishes. If one of your family members dies, you can readily expect him to do whatever you want to help you grieve -- it's not in a tit-for-tat sort of way, just that you don't dump expectations into the circle of intimacy.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:53 PM on November 21, 2013 [10 favorites]

It sounds to me like he is trying to protect you (whether you need or want that protection or not) from an otherwise sad and dreary weekend.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:53 PM on November 21, 2013 [6 favorites]

This sounds absolutely normal to this Canadian and I can easily imagine myself behaving very similarly, with no ill will felt/meant to any significant other. Grief can be a pretty private thing for some. Tell him that he and his family are in your thoughts, and to please ask you for any assistance needed, and don't even hint that you would like to go (or that you think it possibly 'goofy')...

One weekend spent with the parents does not automatically spouse you, so to speak, into a weekend there when heavy stuff like this is going down. This stuff is highly individualised, but I think a lot of grieving people would not be happy to have an unrelated houseguest under these circumstances.
posted by kmennie at 6:55 PM on November 21, 2013 [15 favorites]

This is normal. And many Americans prefer not to be seen by outsiders in their grief. We are on the whole loud and talk a lot and will tell everybody when we're happy, but we tend to hide our pain. You aren't grieving the grandma personally, which makes you an outsider. I know from your past questions that that's really hard for you to understand, but you may have to start believing people when they tell you their culture is different from yours.

My grandparents passed about a year and four years after we got married, and I had my husband go away sometimes because my mother and her sister just needed some time when they didn't have to be good hosts to guests. They were exhausted and hurting and needed rest and quiet and privacy.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:56 PM on November 21, 2013 [15 favorites]

This sounds totally normal to me. Just try to be there for him by respecting his wishes, without adding any drama.
posted by barnoley at 7:01 PM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

Your boyfriend has told you very directly what he wants and needs right now. Asking if he's right about his wants and needs is disrespectful. Speculating that he is "goofy" because he wants private mourning time with his family is disrespectful. Demanding that he include you in private family mourning, when he hasn't gotten to spend any time alone with his family since he met you, is disrespectful.

Please respect your boyfriend's wishes, and give him the kind of support he is asking for, not the kind of support you think is correct based on your culture.
posted by palomar at 7:01 PM on November 21, 2013 [69 favorites]

Ha, well I actually met most of my husbands family for the first time at his grandfather's funeral. It turned out ok but felt really weird to me because I am more like your boyfriend, but his family is more like yours.

He may be afraid he can't be a good boyfriend and mourn; he may want to be able to immerse himself in family and grieve privately. It's ok. Just let him set the pace. There's a fair chance he'll find himself missing you halfway through it, and he'll definitely be glad to come back to see you. Let him figure out what he needs...there is no right way to grieve.
posted by emjaybee at 7:04 PM on November 21, 2013

Are you worried that there's something he's trying to hide or isn't being real about with you? Does this feel like a larger pattern that you're concerned about?

If not, I'd let it go.
posted by latkes at 7:05 PM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Grief fits into the "Comfort In, Dump Out" relationship management style. Complaining to your boyfriend about this decision/family practice would count as dumping in. And it is decidedly not done.

If your boyfriend doesn't generally hide things from you, then I'd say this is probably well within the bounds of "totally normal" for some American families, but even if he is a sneaky conniving jerk, this is not the time to broach that topic.
because my mother and her sister just needed some time when they didn't have to be good hosts to guests.
Seconding what Lyn Never says here. If your boyfriends family comes from any type of "culture of hospitality" and/or "culture of honor" and you are not yet officially a part of the family, then you will be considered a guest, no matter what difficultly is going on in their lives. Your boyfriend does not want to subject his family to feeling like they need to feed you and look after your comfort. He also does not want to subject you to the awkwardness of being offered food by people so obviously in grief. There are also the concerns that grieving for someone you didn't know well is "boring" or "inconvenient." AskMe is filled with a raft of "do I really have to go to this funeral?" types of questions. Americans don't always do well in the showing up for others and being quietly supportive department. And his family likely has no knowledge of your cultural grief background.

As with Lyn Never's husband, even if you were married to your boyfriend, you might not be included in some part(s) of the grieving. Sure, this is not "ideal" but it is how things are done in some families/communities.

Much less likely, but still a possibility: There are also some families that share deeply private stories during grief. Whether that's information that great aunt Sue was a lesbian, or that all of grand dad's kids were actually someone else's kids, hashing out some old feud, or whatever. The family might need time to get all that stuff out in the open and then sweep it back under the rug, and doing that in front of "outsiders" is just verboten.

As an aside, about American funeral stuff: In case nobody has told you this, sending flowers to the funeral is often customary. What kinds of flowers and how big/expensive an arrangement varies widely by region and other factors. Sometimes a family will request "donation to xx charity in lieu of flowers." If that is the case, send a small donation in the name of the deceased to the charity named. This may sound obvious, but designate yourself a holder of tissues on the day of the funeral. Offer to get waters for people, and otherwise make yourself useful. Water is key, as many many people will want to talk to your boyfriend and his family. And we are not a culture used to spending an entire day standing up and making chit chat. We get thirsty and then before we realize it, parched.
posted by bilabial at 7:15 PM on November 21, 2013 [16 favorites]

I want to be gentle here. I recognize your username. I think that being in this relationship causes you a lot of anxiety, and I don't think that's just cultural. You seem to be very, very anxious and worried about a lot of aspects of this relationship.

A relationship is a source of comfort and happiness, not of stress and anxiety. You might want to look into figuring out ways to cope with the immense amount of concern this relationship seems to cause you. You might find that being in a relationship is not something you need at this point. I don't know - I just want to gently suggest that you examine how this relationship makes you feel, because your questions here suggest that it makes you feel pretty anxious and worried.

As for the funeral, yes, it's OK for your boyfriend to say he doesn't want you at the funeral. This is about him, not you, and it is best to give him the space to do whatever he needs to do here.
posted by sockermom at 7:18 PM on November 21, 2013 [21 favorites]

I don't think you should take this personally *at all.* His parents seem to want to grieve privately. In my experience, that's not unusual in the US (though there isn't really a single way of doing things in terms of funerals/mourning in the US).

Things you *can* do to show your support:
You can send a condolence card to his parents. You might also ask your boyfriend if he'd like you to make a dish (usually some kind of casserole or comfort food) to send along with him and put in the freezer for his family, so they don't have to worry about cooking -- that's a very common way to show support without intruding.

It was different when you were going to visit his grandma in hospice because she was alive then -- especially if you eventually become your boyfriend's wife, then it would have been nice for you to have met his grandma (at least symbolically) before she passed. It would also have been a way for your boyfriend to show his grandma that he's "settled" and "OK." But it's water under the bridge now, I definitely wouldn't mention it to your boyfriend or his family.
posted by rue72 at 7:26 PM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

When my father died, what I wanted changed by the hour: I wanted to be alone, I wanted someone with me, I wanted to stay on the couch and cry, I wanted to go out and have a normal fun time. It's hard to anticipate how you'll feel and react when someone you're close to dies, and it's presumptuous to believe there's a right way to do it.

The best comfort you can offer a grieving loved one is to respect their wishes, and do what they ask.

Additionally, I suspect you're not asking this because you're worried about how your boyfriend's processing his grief, but because you're worried that his wish to go alone might mean your relationship is in trouble. The next few weeks are probably going to be hard for you, since he will continue to grieve, and the relationship may have to temporarily take a back seat to that. If that happens, don't fight it. Don't fret about where the relationship is going and don't pester him about it. Just support when you can. His pain is greater than your worry right now.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:29 PM on November 21, 2013 [9 favorites]

This is very normal. You have probably noticed Americans tend to be more distant than you're used to. This is affecting your boyfriend's response in two ways:

First, if you're there his family may feel obligated to entertain you and be "good hosts". You may not care if they're not all smiles and chatting, but it's possible they will feel guilty and anxious about it anyway. If you're not there, they don't have to worry about you feeling bored or neglected--even if that worry is baseless.

Second, grief is seen as an incredibly private thing. You're not supposed to express it to anyone who's not also grieving the same thing, unless you're very, very, very close with the person. Otherwise it is seen as burdening the other person and impolite. Your boyfriend is OK expressing his grief to you, but it is likely his parents aren't, no matter how many times they've met you. That's totally OK, it has nothing to do with you, it's just how American relationship dynamics work. Most parents will never feel comfortable expressing that level of grief to a child's partner.
posted by schroedinger at 7:31 PM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is totally normal. Go to the funeral, be supportive, be helpful, and don't make the way your boyfriend is handling the loss of his grandmother about you. None of this has anything to do with you or the state of your relationship or the way his family feels about you or anything like that. (And, honestly, even if it does speak to that, now is really, really not the time anyway.)

As an American, I would probably do the exact same thing: want support at the funeral, but really not want to have to deal with juggling a significant other and my family throughout the sturm und drang of the actual, behind-closed-doors grieving from family members my SO don't actually even know that well. Bringing a SO of six months home with me for the weekend before my grandmother's funeral honestly sounds INSANE to me. I would NEVER do that, even if I thought said SO was amazing. Your boyfriend may be coming from the same cultural place.

Go the funeral, send a kind condolence card to your boyfriend's parents, and send a pie or a lasagna with him when he goes home. The end.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:55 PM on November 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

Do not take this personally; this is not about you or your relationship. Your boyfriend is not "acting goofy"; this is indeed how many (not all, but many) individuals and families in America deal with the death of a family member.

The very best thing you can do for him and his family is to respect their wishes and refrain from inserting your own anxieties and expectations into the situation. If your anxieties are getting triggered by this, it is imperative that you find a way to soothe yourself right now (talk to a friend or a therapist, if necessary), but do not displace those anxieties onto your boyfriend or his family by expecting to be a part of something that they have already stated they would like to keep private or by asking him to reassure you.

Again: this is not about you, so please don't make it about you. If you push it, not only will it not help you get closer to your boyfriend or his family, it could actively damage your relationship with them.
posted by scody at 7:59 PM on November 21, 2013 [15 favorites]

Don't force his parents to play the good host or hostess role the weekend their mother died.

That would be exhausting for them.
posted by jbenben at 8:08 PM on November 21, 2013 [13 favorites]

latkes : Are you worried that there's something he's trying to hide or isn't being real about with you? Does this feel like a larger pattern that you're concerned about?

If not, I'd let it go.

I don't care if he's a saint, or the biggest cheat in the world; if his grandmother just died and he wants some time alone with his family, he deserves just that. (Since she's invited to the funeral, there's no reason to believe he invented her death.)
posted by IAmBroom at 8:23 PM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I came in to say what sockermom said...almost exactly.

There are lots of very good reasons why he might not want you at the funeral or seeing his family grieving.

I also really recommend that you think carefully about this relationship and the way it seems to make you react.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:25 PM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm with schroedinger. My mother in law's father passed last year, and she would.not.cry in front of me. I've known her for 18 years and been married to her son for 13. But she still considered it too private. It's not about you, and you should respect their wishes. He may want or need time alone with his family - without you - in the future, and for less dire reasons. This is also ok and normal, and most likely won't be about you either.
posted by RogueTech at 8:53 PM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have done this with my partner when our relationship was in its early stages. It wasn't a funeral, it was a wedding, but emotions were high, no one was happy, I didn't really want to go myself, and having to both subject her to that and look after her whilst I was keeping my family from killing each other would have been a real nightmare.

When my father died early this year, my partner came, but gave me heaps of alone or just-family time and that's exactly what I - and they - needed.
posted by smoke at 8:58 PM on November 21, 2013

This is totally normal and you should absolutely not choose this of all times to be pushy and/or judgmental about your relationship.
posted by elizardbits at 9:06 PM on November 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

Normal. Having a houseguest following a death is a big ask - people react in all sorts of unpredictable weird ways. A lot of people hold it together all through the hospital/hospice stay and then lose it. Or they're fine for a few days until they unpack a certain book, or photo, or knick-knack, or make a favorite food and then wham-o: FEELINGS. You expect crying at the funeral, outside of that I wouldn't think it abnormal to want the privacy to have things come up at weird times. The immediate family will already know why.
I wouldn't worry about it.

When my grandfather died we acted as you'd be used to: everyone rallied and spent the weekend at my aunt's house with my grandmother (who was given an ample supply of peach vodka!). Every culture - and every family - is different.
posted by jrobin276 at 9:31 PM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

And yes, some people are compulsive "hostesses". My family is very at-home no-fuss, but at my in laws' we are always guests. Always. I think it's weird. There's nothing I or you or anyone can do. It just is.
posted by jrobin276 at 9:34 PM on November 21, 2013

Yup, seems normal to this American.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:38 PM on November 21, 2013

Seems normal-ish to me. This is a very personal matter, and there isn't a standard for how to mourn.

How about you support your boyfriend and give him the space he needs? This isn't about you, but you are making it about you. Someone died, and I am hopeful that there's just some sort of miscommunication in the way you write because the lack of empathy you're showing toward your boyfriend here is really troubling. I'm assuming that you've been more supportive and sympathetic in real life, right?

His grandmother died. Jeeze, lady! The appropriate response to that is sympathy, not "What does this mean FOR ME?!?"

Just back off and be there for him. Turning this into a Big Thing in your relationship is not going to work out for you. I'm sure he loves you and his family probably likes you a lot, but death and funerals are difficult and everyone deals with these things differently.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:55 AM on November 22, 2013 [7 favorites]

now he tells me that he wants to spend time with them? And I should go only to the funeral

He wants to spend time with his family. You are not his family.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:39 AM on November 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hey, I remember your posts. You seem to be hurting right now, and I think I understand.

Are you in therapy? Because you do not seem happy, and you are sure worrying a lot.
You seem to be scared of people abandoning you and you freak out at any sign of their getting more distant with you, am I seeing it right? Like maybe if they spend a weekend away from you, things will get worse, or they realize they maybe do not like you all that much after all?

Your boyfriend might indeed get more distant for a while. This is your chance to work on your anxiety, and to improve your relationship by giving it more breathing room. Really.

My advice is to remember that he, too, is a vulnerable human being, with needs of his own some of which have nothing to do with you or your relationship. There is a part of him that ought to remain just his own, and you respecting that something will ultimately strengthen your bond.

So, take a deep breath. Listen to what he's saying and really, truly, respect his explicit wishes. If he says he needs to not talk for a week, so be it. If he says he needs to spend more time one-on-one with his best guy friend, so be it. Even though it might seem like he does not want enough from you, even though you'd like to be the one to support him, even though you might feel rejected that he does not want the kind of support or as much support as you want to offer - let him.

He likes you, he really does. A few days apart won't ruin everything.

In the meantime, please seek support for your own sadness - maybe another friend? online support groups? seven cups of tea [the website not the beverage]?

And yes, please seek therapy. This is a painful way to live and it can be so much better.
Memail me if you want book recommendations, or if you need to vent.
posted by M. at 2:11 AM on November 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am Romanian, and whilst I know a big communal pre-funeral mourning is de rigeur here, there are plenty region-specific funeral customs which don't translate well from funeral to funeral even within the country.

For example, there are still places where a proper funeral has to have a bocitoare, whilst I would find it horrifying if someone where to do that at the funeral of a person I am responsible for (for instance my parents). Similarly, where I come from the priveghi for the dead person pretty much means one is never alone with them, there is a constant flow of people coming to sit there, drink, chat, and in more rural parts actually to make merry. This to me would be awful. Whatever anyone else would think is the correct way to do a funeral, I would need solid chunks of safe, protected, private time with the person who has died, if this is someone really close to me. I couldn't countenance having to say goodbye furtively between two lots of visitors, and then self-consciously play the part of main mourner during visits.

The point is that even if there are no cultural differences (or more subtle cultural differences), there are times in life when one has to bow to the needs and desires of another without allowing one's own insecurities and expectations to intrude on the other person's greater needs, emotional distress, etc. I think your boyfriend's current situation is about you in this way: he is going through something really difficult right now, as are other members of his family - but you are not (not that it does not affect you, but obviously you don't have the same memories of your bf's grandma, she hasn't been part of your life in the same way, your loss is negligible compared to his). You are called to offer support, at the same time as develop a sixth sense as to what that support looks like. As you say, in Romania this frequently (but not always) means that everyone congregates and gets busy, but in other cases support might mean tact and discretion, allowing others some space. Some people will need solitude, and yet others might feel the need for a lot of one-to-one conversations about the deceased etc. Grief is cultural, but also quite personal. If you can sense what he needs (and in your case it is easy! He told you!) and are able to offer this to him and the family, you ARE actually as involved as you would be with a more participatory mourning session, just in very different ways.

At the same time, I must confess that if I had an SO who decided to question my needs and requests at a time that is about my sorrow and the sorrow of those equally affected by me, and to replace support by questioning my commitment to my relationship with them - well, I'd find it very difficult to stay their SO under these circumstances.
posted by miorita at 2:39 AM on November 22, 2013 [17 favorites]

I'm sorry, but YOUR culture has nothing to do with this. It doesn't matter in the least if your family gathers with every single relative plus their spouses, children, cousins to the nth degree and signifigant others ranging from live-in lover to casual date: this is about HIS family and their traditions/cultural norms.

From your description, his desire to go alone doesn't have anything to do with you, it's just the way his family gathers for this kind of occasion. Let him be, and respect his clearly-expressed wishes. If he changes his mind and says he wants you to come along, fine, but forcing your way into his grandmother's funeral ***when he has specifically said not to*** will just make you look bad.

Also, you wrote in your post "Is he right? Is he acting goofy?", which is in itself pretty rude: why in the world would you even THINK his family traditions and culture are wrong or 'goofy', as if your own culture encompasses the only "right" way to do things?!? No matter WHAT culture you come from, that's pretty bigoted and disrespectful thinking.
posted by easily confused at 2:52 AM on November 22, 2013 [8 favorites]

Hey, I am not going to address the cultural aspects of your question specifically, because my cultural mix is different: a British person living in Switzerland. I do want to say that I am in a similar situation to yours. My (Swiss) partner's aunt died this month, sooner than she should have, and her funeral was last weekend.

It is a hard place to be in! I really liked his aunt, and have been feeling very sad at her passing, as well as terrible for her family, who are all very close. At the same time, I'm obviously further removed from the tragedy than my partner or his father, grandmother and cousins. I've been trying to follow their lead in how to support them, offering my company or condolences and letting them set the tone of conversations about the situation. Her funeral was actually rather non-traditional, but the cultural difference has still made this a bit more difficult for me.

I agree with commenters upthread who say you should go along with what your partner has asked for, and not try to push for more inclusion in the family's plans. I would be extra gentle and thoughtful towards him in the time that he does spend with you. The article linked above on the "comfort in, grief out" model is a great place to start and has been very helpful for me (in various situations). That's not to say that you don't also need support, though. Can you talk to your friends, American or Romanian, about how you're feeling? Getting messages from my family and best friend back at home, sending their love and condolences to all of us here, has been really helpful for me. I think that's partly because my partner and I live in a different city from the rest of his family and while we were getting updates by telephone, and feeling strange and disconnected along with the grief, it sort of made the situation feel more real or more confirmed.

Good luck in these hard times.
posted by daisyk at 3:26 AM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not unusual.

One thing you can do to show concern for the family is to bring a cassarole to your boyfriend's parents after the funeral. This is a long-time American funeral custom. The idea is that they will not have had time to prepare meals in their grief, and so the community comes together and feeds the family. It's a freaking trope.

A lasagna or some other dish that reheats well is fine.

After my uncle died, my cousin's office came together and sent a Honeybaked Ham platter for us to pick up in Missouri. We piled into the rental car and drove to the store and got the platter. We were all excited because, you know, Honeybaked Ham. We were a carload of disappointed jews when we saw that the meat was all turkey. Oh well, thought was in the right place.

If you want to be culturally sensative, give your boyfriend and his family time to grieve together privately. Go to the funeral. Then bring a cassarole.

That is the American way of doing a funeral.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:06 AM on November 22, 2013

I think this is something that varies more according to family than it varies according to culture. My family was totally cool with my GF being around when my grandma died earlier this year (and I think kind of expected it), but I don't think what he is telling you is strange at all. His family is grieving and you should put your personal thoughts aside and respect his wishes.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:42 AM on November 22, 2013

Like everyone says, this is not at all unusual for American culture and in no way intended as an insult or rejection of you.

Don't know how his family does things, obviously, but in my family this would be a question of simple logistics. If you lived nearby, you'd be more than welcome to come by during the visiting period and to come to the funeral. Your support would be greatly appreciated. But in my mother's house, unmarried couples do not sleep together, even if she knows damn well we're living under the same roof up there in the city. That's our business, but this is her house.

That means that if I bring you down for the weekend for the mourning and burial, then my mom has to come up with another guest room for you, or at least a bed somewhere that isn't in my room, which given the influx of out of town relatives, she probably doesn't have.
posted by Naberius at 7:52 AM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Remember that there are other people involved, and your boyfriend may not just be speaking from his own preferences, but maybe from others' preferences as well.

His grandmother passed away, but that also means that one of his parents just lost their mother, and the same for any aunts or uncles who could be around. For your boyfriend's parents (and maybe aunts/uncles), they know you a little bit but they don't feel close to you the way your boyfriend does. Maybe he is asking you not to be with them over the weekend because his parents would like to have some privacy, or because his parents want to see him alone. And maybe they just don't want to be hosts right now, too.

I think you're right that there's a cultural element, but I think you also need to remember that other members of your boyfriend's family also have a say in whether or not you spend the weekend at their place, and respect their choice at this time. Losing a parent is very serious (and yes, in some North American cultures, when something so serious happens you really want to be alone or only with your very closest kin).
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:28 AM on November 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is weird because he was ok before with me spending the entire weeken in the hospice.

In the hospice his family doesn't have to host you. I'm sort of repeating what others have said but in America (warning: generalization ahead) when people who are not immediate family stay in your home they are your guest, and you have to be concerned with whether they have what they need, are entertained, are comfortable, etc. The period right after someone dies is one of intense planning and rushing around. Completely leaving aside his wish to spend time with his family alone and/or anything to do with actual grief, they will be BUSY. They won't have time to take care of a guest (even if you say you don't need anything) because they'll be dealing with the funeral home, and looking up/discussing legal and financial matters, and sorting out his grandmother's belongings.

Unless you have some other, longstanding reason to believe your BF is a liar or likes put up walls between you - which it doesn't seem you have - just believe him and do what he wants and make this easy for him and his family.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:36 AM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

His family may have met you before, but they may just be very, very private about some things. Some people just take a long time before they trust a stranger with some of their more private feelings; and grief can sometimes be a very private feeling.

In the United States, the funeral is the time when the whole community comes together to support a family after a death; but before and after the funeral, the family is kind of left alone and given privacy. Very, VERY close friends may visit (and I mean, people they've known for many years), but everyone else leaves them alone.

I wouldn't worry about this. Go to the funeral, but other than that, maybe just check in with your boyfriend now and then to see how he's doing, and otherwise, let them be.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:37 AM on November 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Generally in America, the funeral is for the community, friends, and family to come together and support those grieving. The beraved put on the happiest face they can manage and accept teh wwell wishes with good manners.

Prior to that, the family typically plans the funeral only amongst those close to the deceased and maybe their spouses. You are not close enough to be involved in this time. LEave it alone, it has nothing to do with you.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:08 AM on November 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tell him, only once, "if you want me to be there for you and your family, say the word and I'm there. Otherwise I will respect your wishes to be with your family". Only once. He may think you might be awkward with the whole thing and not want to imposition you, and if you say you're ok, he actually does want you there. If not, then he wants to be with his family and you should respect that.

Personal experience: My sister and I have boyfriends, in the US, and the boyfriends each had a grandparent die this summer. They both seemed to handle it with us in a similar way- grandparent died, here's when the funeral is, end of sentence. We both said, "let us know what you want me there for, as little or as much as you want". Mine said he'd really appreciate me there the whole time, hers said "come to the viewing".
posted by paradeofblimps at 4:37 PM on November 22, 2013

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