Summary The aim of the study was to explore and describe the experiences of relatives of critically ill patients in adult intensive care. A qualitative research design was chosen, using a Grounded Theory approach. In-depth interviews were conducted with four spouses and three parents in a Danish University Hospital. An overall process of fitting in was apparent, explaining how relatives tried to manoeuvre in a chaotic and scary situation. The relatives were clearly in turmoil, yet found ways of coping in the situation and developing adaptation ability. Three major strategies were identified: enduring uncertainty, putting self aside and forming personal cues. This explorative study points to relatives being vulnerable and resourceful at the same time, struggling to find a place, experiencing distance from the patient as well as from the professionals and uncertainty regarding what to expect and how to act in the ICU. The study is a contribution to understanding relatives’ needs and strategies and to developing better communication and cooperation between nurses and the patients’ relatives.