Most research has at its base some facet of curiosity. And not all research is formal. In fact, human beings conduct research all the time. Often one senses a dawning awareness, a noticing, that turns into wondering and gradually becomes more articulated as a questioning. Soon one realizes there is something clamoring to be known.
Recently this innate process of exploration, which Moustakas (1990) referred to as heuristic inquiry has been figural in my experience. A hint of awareness, pondering, and finally an articulated question made itself present. Emanating from personal experience from the perspective of a psychologist, several events over the past year coalesced into a focus for study.
The research is about the awakening of love and its transformational power between older adults, particularly after losing a spouse with whom one had a long and satisfying marriage. This idea was not new to me, but it seemed distant and irrelevant. Then the spouse of a dear friend died, someone to whom I had also been very close. I was present with my friend through intense moments of grief, finding myself wondering how this would be if it were my spouse. No longer distant or irrelevant, the experience pierced my armor. I could not imagine how she would move forward, or I, were it me.
Later, my friend met a man she had known many years earlier and they fell in love. A kind of love I had not witnessed before. It evoked the thrill of adolescent discovery, the radiance of being and lightness of spirit, yet there was a depth and richness about it, perhaps a knowing appreciation for having rediscovered what they once knew or possessed earlier in their lives. On this foundation, my friend built a new life.
Observing this experience moved me. I was struck by the capacity for change at advanced ages and ever-evolving opportunities for growth. I wondered about the nature of a love that seemed to have transforming potential. I began to think that, given the increase in life expectancy, and not ignoring the personal relevancy, this would be an important study.
My inquiry crystalized when I beheld the glow and radiance of newly discovered love in a 90-year-old relative and witnessed firsthand his accompanying transformation. He became a different person-or perhaps another dimension of his being had been stirred. I do not yet know.
What is the nature of love that presents itself in later life? What is the transformation in later life that seems to be aroused by the spark of love? This is my question. I am on a heuristic journey.
By Dr. Blau, PhD, MSP President
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Moustakas, C. (1990). Heuristic research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.