• caregivers;
  • coping;
  • disorders of consciousness;
  • minimally conscious state;
  • prolonged grief disorder;
  • vegetative state


To study the relationship between coping strategies and prolonged grief disorder (PGD) in caregivers of patients with disorders of consciousness: vegetative state (VS) or minimally conscious state (MCS).

Materials and methods

Fifty-three caregivers of 43 patients with VS or MCS were assessed using PG-12 and Brief COPE-28. Mean differences for each coping strategy between caregivers of patients with/without PGD were compared using Bonferroni-adjusted t-tests, and the size effect was calculated (Cohen′s d).


The frequency of PGD was very high (n = 32; 60.40%). The most common coping strategies were problem-focused: active coping (mean = 6.41; SD = 1.02), Instrumental support (mean = 6.41; SD = 1.06), Planning (mean = 6.32; SD = 1.01) and Acceptance (mean = 6.20; SD = 1.29). Acceptance predicted a lower presence of PGD (P = 0.001; Cohen′s d = 1.02), while Denial (P = 0.003; Cohen′s d = 0.98) and Self-blame (P = 0.004, Cohen′s d = 0.91) increased the presence of PGD.


The caregivers of patients with VS or MCS show a high risk of PGD. Problem-focused coping strategies are the most used. Acceptance is highly protective of PGD, and Denial and Self-blame are associated with an increased presence of PGD. PGD in caregivers of patients in VS or MCS should be evaluated, Acceptance and problem-focused strategies should be promoted, and Denial and Self-blame should be diminished.