• coma;
  • family;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • support;
  • trauma

Aims.  The identification and description of the basic psychological process linked with the focus of family members’ functioning during the acute phase of traumatic coma.

Background.  Earlier research learned that hope is a core category in coping with traumatic coma. Hope seems to be the drive to keep family members going and to enable them to fulfil their main task, namely protecting. In the two articles on the focus of family members functioning, this task is defined and the process linked with it is described.

Design.  A qualitative approach according to the ‘grounded theory’ method.

Method.  Twenty-four in-depth interviews with 22 family members of 16 patients with traumatic coma.

Results.  Family members describe the period after the confrontation with traumatic coma as a battle. During this battle, they feel the urge to protect their relative in coma, other family members and themselves. They go through three phases: protecting life, protecting from suffering, protecting what remains to rebuild life. In this article (Part Two) we describe the phase of protecting from suffering and protecting what remains to rebuild life.

Conclusions.  All relatives go through the three phases. Family members who have already overcome previous set-backs get through the process slightly more quickly and experience less extreme emotions.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Understanding the process of protecting in different phases may help health care professionals to do anything in their power to avoid unnecessary suffering, to ease the pain and to support family members in their task of protecting.