This article is about nursing staff facing the challenge of meeting death and the dying as a family matter in specific caring practices. The focus of the article is the interaction between the terminally ill, their spouses and the nursing staff.

The study is a qualitative, empirical study inspired by Grounded Theory Methodology. The empirical basis is provided by field studies in private homes, a hospital ward and a hospice institution and by interviews with terminally ill, their spouses and the nursing staff.

There are three typical triads: the flexible co-operative triad, the unstable adaptive triad, the excluding divided triad. Seven conditions influence the interaction and have different consequences for the terminally ill and their spouses: type of co-operation, the attitude of spouses, who has the means to define reality, typical interaction, type of relationship, the personality of the patient, the perspective of experience. The flexible co-operative triad is the only triad with a genuine family perspective on death and dying.