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Continuity in the Midst of Change: The Bereavement Experiences of Twelve Older Adult Widowers

Continuity in the Midst of Change: The Bereavement Experiences of Twelve Older Adult Widowers

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Title: Continuity in the Midst of Change: The Bereavement Experiences of Twelve Older Adult Widowers
Author: Kipper, Karen Elisabeth Mary
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to investigate how spousal bereavement affects the lives of men who are widowed in their 60s and older. In-depth interviews were conducted with 12 widowers aged 68 to 94 years (average 83) whose wives had died 2 to 10 years earlier, following marriages that had lasted from 37 to 61 years (average 50 years). The goal was to discover core themes that reflected the experiences and insights of these men, by analysis of their interviews using the grounded theory method with methodological hermeneutics. The resulting theory is represented by a hierarchical category structure featuring one core category and two second-level categories, supported by multiple subcategories, branches, and sub-branches. The core category was interpreted as “Continuity in the Midst of Change,” which combines the grounded and stabilising force of continuity with the challenge and uncertainty of change in the widowers’ lives. The diverse changes and challenges the men had faced, most notably, but not solely, the death of their wives, took place within the context of continuity in the men’s lives. The first second-level category, “Relationships, Work, and Activities,” concerns the past and present fundamental aspects of life for the widowers: the lasting effects of the lives they shared with their wives, ongoing relationships with family and friends, the communities they belonged to, and the work and other activities with which they were involved. These enduring effects collectively formed a life reviewing narrative that represented continuity in the men’s present lives, which contributed to resilience in the aftermath of spousal loss. The other second-level category, “Death, Loss, and Other Changes,” represents the changes and challenges the men recounted. The coexistence of conjugal bereavement in later life with other challenges added additional complexity to loss. The findings of this study are discussed in light of bereavement theory and research, including the concepts of continuing bonds, resiliency, and meaning, and also in reference to psychogerontology theory and research, including ideas about diversity, selectivity, continuity, and personality in later life. The theoretical and clinical implications of this study and recommendations for future research are discussed.
Subject: Developmental psychology
Clinical psychology
Gerontology
Keywords: Bereavement
Continuity
Grief
Grounded theory
Hermeneutics
Meaning
Narrative
Older adults
Resilience
Widowers
Type: Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/29960
Supervisor: Fleming, Stephen J.
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Program: Psychology (Functional Area: Clinical Psychology)
Exam date: 2014-11-17
Publish on: 2015-08-28

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