Moon, Paul Jangsuk
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The purpose of this study was to understand older adults’ transformative learning through bereavement in late life. A qualitative research approach was implemented including purposive sampling and in-depth, semi-structured interviews with nine bereaved older adults. Four research questions guided this study: (1) What do older adults specify as being transformed within them as a consequence of late life bereavement? (2) How does transformative learning impact older adults’ ongoing lives? (3) How do older adults describe the process of transformation? (4) What late life factors shape the transformative learning process? Analysis of the data was completed via the constant comparative method. This study found that bereaved older adults experienced transformation toward a greater consciousness of death issues as evidenced by responding to death issues with less dread, poignant awareness of personal mortality and the afterlife, and sensitization to the preciousness of life. Their transformation also included a reprioritization of goals and activities as evidenced by changes in life activities, and re-evaluation of intra-/inter-personal relationships as evidenced by altered interactional behaviors. Concerning the process of transformation were found the significant components of acute distress, reflection, emerging sense of change in perspectives, and new behaviors. Finally, participants revealed that an accumulation of relevant learning from earlier life experiences and the late life-cycle issues of a dwindling social network and proximity to personal mortality helped to shape transformative learning. Three conclusions were drawn from this study. First, perspective transformation can occur in late life bereavement. Second, transformative learning is a fluid and oscillatory process. Third, transformative learning is shaped by biographical and life stage developmental contexts. Practical implications and recommendations for future research are provided.