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Spiritual Healing from Addiction: 9 Stages to Resolve Existential Grief

In addiction recovery, you must get a hold of Existential Grief! A HOW TO HEAL GUIDE so that you can resolve addiction on a deep, spiritual level. More here !

Healing Existential Grief

Do you ever feel deeply lonely, even while in addiction recovery?

You are not alone!

Disconnection from community or the larger picture can be at the heart of addiction. Learn more about how to identify and heal grief in addiction – specifically, Existential Grief – in Part 2 of this insightful article. Then, we invite your comments and questions about Existential Grief at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all real life questions personally and promptly!

Healing Existential Grief When Diagnosed With Addiction

In Part 1 of this article, I laid out the terrain in which grief and Existential Grief exists. We took a look at what happens when you do not address your grief – bad outcomes – and the benefits you get when you recover from and heal your Existential Grief.

Here, in Part 2, I’ll discuss the questions you’ll need to ask yourself in order to start down the path to spiritual healing. We’ll talk about what it means to recover from and heal your Existential Grief. Further, I’ll lay out solutions for recovering from Existential Grief in 9 practical stages. Finally, I invite your feedback at the end.

Who am I? (in addiction recovery)

A key feature of Existential Grief which wraps around addiction is the global loss of identity when you are in recovery. Even though logically you know that you are better off being clean and maintaining sobriety or recovery, you may still from time to time wistfully long for and miss your previous identity as a user. This would include missing the places you used to hang out in and the people you used to associate with that were all part of your previous identity as an addict.

How to overcome grief and addiction?

Overcoming and changing deep seated addictive behavioral patterns when you are experiencing Existential Grief combined with addiction can be tricky, so you should consider seeking out the help of professional therapists or coaches to increase your odds of recovery. Please note, this article is educational in nature and not meant to serve as any form of medical or therapeutic advice. Please consult your health care practitioner before beginning any new regime.

The Big Existential Grief Questions You Must Answer for Yourself

Successfully transiting and recovering from Existential Grief requires that you honestly ask yourself the big questions. Yep, for anyone using addiction to hide from their emotional pain, that can be scary! This means there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from your-self!

A helpful way to lessen any fear you may have about doing this is to reframe your recovery as a form of creative growth. Of course, most likely, if it were your decision to make, you would have planned things differently! Nevertheless, here are some sample big Existential Grief questions you’ll have to face head on in the recovery process on your path to healing:

  • What’s the meaning of life?
  • Does my life have meaning?
  • What is my life’s purpose?
  • Does Existential Grief underlie my addiction?
  • What am I afraid of?
  • Why am I afraid?
  • When am I afraid?
  • Where in my body do I feel the most fear?
  • Is my feeling of fear located in the same place I feel my anxiety?
  • Where does my grief live in my body?
  • Where does my sense of sadness or disappointment reside in my body?
  • What part of me is afraid?
  • What part of me is confident?
  • What part of me is fearless?
  • When do I experience Peace or Peace of Mind?
  • How can I regularly experience a state of Peace or Peace of Mind?
  • What supports do I need to resolve my Existential Grief?
  • How can I prevent my Fear of Success from sabotaging my recovery?
  • What will my life look like when I achieve recovery and healing?

9 Stages of Healing Existential Grief

Stage 1: Awareness that something is not right. In this Stage, you acknowledge core feelings of emptiness or sense of aloneness… even when you are with friends or in a group. Your bodily feltsense is that you have a “gap” or “hole” in your Being. Your experience is one of being continually “misunderstood” or “wrong,” not fitting in or trying to ignore or fight off vague waves of anxiety of unknown origin.

Additionally, you may have had the experience of being “different” or an eternal sense of being a stranger even in familiar surroundings. For some others, you may experience a global collapse of your identity or experience your day to day feeling dissociated – that nothing really matters.

If you’ve experienced a deep or sinister level of betrayal, your ability to trust others may have been damaged or lost, and the world no longer feels like a safe place for you. Sometimes, due to being continually bullied, rejected or unfairly criticized, you may also not feel any sense of community or belonging to any group which is meaningful and satisfying.

This deep sense of loss and betrayal of trust can result in alienation, cynicism, and a loss of faith in God or a Higher Power for good.

Stage 2: Moving past denial. In the second stage of healing, you fully grasp the fact that unresolved Existential Grief may be a huge iceberg issue in your life that is sabotaging your efforts to find your place in the world and your life’s purpose. This entails engaging in deep levels of reflection including writing down and examining your dream content for symbolic and archetypal clues that point to the causation of your underlying distress. These methods allow you to see how deeply you are associated with your pain body – in order to make progress, you must begin the process of gaining more objectivity by becoming less associated with your emotional pain.

For some people, this means becoming more detached from their pain; for others, they must become dissociated from their pain in order to obtain a more “objective” view.

The bottom line is that when you move past denial, you gain a clearer picture of how Existential Grief has been holding you back. It’s almost as if you’ve taken off blinders or the mud obstructing your internal view of yourself has been removed. Just like when driving an automobile, we all have blindspots in our psyche, personality and personal habits – things about ourselves that we do not know about ourselves or cannot see about ourselves but others do know and see.

Acknowledging the existence of your own Existential Grief can give you a level of clarity that you may never have experienced before. The revelation can feel like a “Eureka” moment or like having the weight of the world lifted off your shoulders!

Stage 3: Making a commitment to resolve your Existential Grief. Once you have identified Existential Grief as a key trauma source, you must commit to recovering from this form of grief in order to heal. Set a target date to begin but remember to be gentle with yourself since a key aspect of raising your self-image is learning self compassion.

Remember, there is no one size fits all here – no clear path to follow – each person is a unique individual and must find their own way based upon their personal history, personality, temperament and ability to stick to a goal.

At this stage, it’s important to get a clear image in your mind or sense of what recovery looks like. Keep working on your vision or imagery until you achieve clarity. You’ll know when you’re there when you “feel it” in your body – this is often experienced as an “ontological shift” or sense of knowingness that you’re on the right track.

Stage 4: Finding a compatible therapeutic approach or method. Since transiting the terrain of Existential Grief can feel like you’re trying to navigate some type of unknown or unfriendly maze, it is often a good idea to seek out the services of an experienced therapist or professional coach skilled in Grief Therapy.

Of course, it is also possible to recover from Existential Grief on your own if you are the deep, insightful reflective type, but regardless of your approach, you must prepare yourself for a “bumpy ride” through the various levels of your own psyche.

In fact, this can actually be the scariest part of healing Existential Grief: in order to recover, you must get to “know your true self.” This means that you’ll have to go deep into your own “stuff” – yes, down there – into your own pre-conscious, sub-conscious and un-conscious minds. The bad news is that there’s no faking it possible here – you must come face to face with elements of your-self that perhaps you didn’t even realize existed.

You’ll be addressing change from the inside-out. Consider this: Self-sabotage leads to bad outcomes! Choosing and relying on addictive behaviors may provide you with some temporary and illusory relief from your deeply felt and out-of-sight emotional pain….but you have choices!

The really good news is that when you muster the courage – yes, it takes courage since you’ll have to face you’re “invisible” irrational fears, anxieties and schematas – to enter this internal realm, you dramatically improve your chances of achieving recovery. You simultaneously reduce risks of relapse.

Stage 5: Doing the work for however long it takes. A key and often overlooked aspect of recovering from Existential Grief is that no matter how much you may want to heal, the process cannot be rushed – unfortunately, there are no shortcuts in this arena. If you are used to “cutting corners” to get things done in your life, that approach will fall flat here. You’ll be stopped cold or “stuck” on an emotional plateau, unless or until you come to this process with honesty and authenticity.

To be frank, you have to do the work. In a way, it’s just like studying for the final exam in a course where the questions on the exam are those taken from your homework assignments [in this case, your assignments are your lived experiences]. You already have the questions from the assignments but unless you do your homework regularly, most likely you won’t perform well on the final exam [recovering from Existential Grief].

Within the terrain of Existential Grief, fortunately or unfortunately, you are simultaneously the teacher and the student – that means you get to make up the “exam questions” but it also means that in order to “pass” or recover, your “exam answers” must be real or authentic or you’ll get an automatic “F” grade.

If you are already familiar with Gestalt and Jungian techniques, then you know that your body communicates via bodily feltsense, dream symbols and your intuitive faculties; not the language of words. So, this means that you can’t “cheat” the process since your body is intelligent. If you are interested in how these processes work, you can learn more about Gestalt, and Jungian approaches bodily feltsense, dream symbols and intuition here.

How to deal with grief and addiction? Look, you must face the facts: If you really want to recover and heal your Existential Grief, you have to get serious and do the work that resonates with your core Being.

Stage 6: Dealing with “Parts” Conflict. In this stage, you figure out “how” to have your inner world match or become congruent with your outer world.


Well, believe it or not, you have different aspects or “Parts” of your psyche or personality which may be in conflict with one another.

“Say what,Willis?”

Yes, you have many “Parts” or sides of yourself that you may never have thought about or considered in any comprehensive way.

For doubters, here are a few examples: Let’s say you are playing tennis, golf, or ping pong and you hit a bad shot and immediately you lash out at yourself with negative self talk, saying something like “That was really dumb big guy….you always choke when the pressure builds. You’re a clumsy jerk!” In this case, “who” are you talking to?


How is that possible if there is only one “You”?

Of course, any in depth discussion of what the self is or who is the internal “I” or “Me” or “You” are beyond the scope of this article, however, as you move through the Existential Grief territory, you’ll continue to bump into these “larger than life” issues.

For instance, have you ever liked or been in love with more than one person at the same time? If so, you know what it’s like to have a continual streaming dialogue between your selves [“Parts”], as you go back and forth to weigh the pros and cons of continuing to date this person or that person.

In this case, “who” and “where” are the players who are engaged in this dialogue? Well, it’s clear that there are different parts of yourself “talking” or engaging in self dialogue, but ask yourself, who and where is the “Me”; who and where is the “I”; who and where is the “you” or “he/she” in these self dialoging conversations with yourself?

An in depth answer to what a “Part” is or is not, is certainly beyond the scope of this article since it might involve epistemological, ontological or teleological inquiry or perspectives. On a practical level for healing Existential Grief, it’s enough to know and be aware that we have “Parts” and that these parts can be in conflict – and sometimes, their independent beliefs and values can be diametrically opposed.

Most likely, you already know when that happens because your experience is one of two steps forward towards your goal and either one or three steps backwards soon thereafter – the practical effect is that progress towards your goal slows down, gets reversed or is negated.

Ok, so what can you do in the context of healing your Existential Grief? Well, Neuro-Linguistic-Programming [NLP] Parts Integration is one way of aligning and achieving congruency between and among internal aspects of your psyche that may be in conflict.

To move forward in the healing process for Existential Grief, you must integrate your Parts and resolve conflicts between Parts which are unconscious. You can learn more about how Parts Integration works here.

Stage 7: Recovering from emotional hurt and pain. In the recovery phase, your primary trauma memories and emotional hurt have been neutralized or dissolved. This allows you to begin moving on with your life…. which is the goal of recovery. From this vantage point, you can recall the memories of your Existential Grief experiences in a detached way – your memories are no longer fully associated, so you don’t feel any debilitating pain or hurt when you recall those experiences.

You are no longer stopped in your tracks when you recall your past or remember your trauma experiences. You no longer have uncontrollable urges to lash out at others or hurt yourself because of your feelings. You will have “come to terms” with your losses, your angst, your Existential Grief.
If you’ve reached this point, whether you’ve worked with a therapist, grief coach or by yourself, you can feel good knowing that you’ve successfully walked “the road less travelled.” Since recovery is an ongoing process, it’s a good idea to find healthy ways to celebrate your success. Whether it’s a pat on the back from your own hand or from family and friends for a job well done, celebrating is important because that act can provide a sense of acknowledgement and closure for your Existential Grief journey. In a way, you might even consider it to be a form of “graduation.”

You will have said good-bye to your emotional pain. You will remember it, but you will no longer have a need or desire to continue an ongoing pathological relationship with your pain. It will no longer have a misplaced sense of honor on your mantleplace; instead, it will be a dusty relic in the back of your closet with no power over you should you happen to come across it. You’ll have a feeling sense or “knowingness” when you’re done.

Stage 8: Testing Phase. Although you may have felt the “shift” in your body as well as made significant changes in your habitual thought processes and emotional memory patterns, it’s still critical to periodically test your memory trail to make sure that you have excised all of your hurt and emotional pain surrounding Existential Grief.

Here, there’s a fine line between being confident and overly confident that your grief is all gone. Since you are working with your own unconscious – a terrain where you cannot be aware of every element or aspect – you have to be sure that your Existential Grief doesn’t re-ignite itself!

In fact, should you begin to feel that you are in any way merging [fully associated] with hurtful past traumatic memories, this may indeed be a clear sign that you have more work to do. Additionally, if you become defensive should someone ask you about your recovery from Existential Grief, that’s a sure sign that you’re not done yet – even though that’s the last thing you may want to hear!

To heal completely, you must be willing to go back to the drawing board and examine and excavate every aspect of your hurt and emotional pain. Yes, it’s true, recovering from Existential Grief is not for the faint of heart but the rewards of doing so are exhilarating since you’ll be able to live your life with meaning and clarity of purpose. That type of enhanced clarity is certainly a goal worth striving for, as anyone who has fully recovered from Existential Grief will tell you!

If you find yourself recalling certain events and there still appears to be some form of emotional charge or negative valence that pulls in the direction of full association, then that could indicate that you’re not done yet!

Stage 9: Healing: When you reach this final stage you’ll be anxious to share your story of Existential Grief recovery with others. In part, this is how you’ll know that you’ve successfully transited from recovery to healing because sharing in this way represents transpersonal healing. Now you can tell your story in an objective fashion that maintains the passion yet is disconnected from your previous hurt, emotional pain and suffering.

Others may immediately be able to tell that you are healed and may congratulate or simply thank you for sharing your story of recovery. This is good news since our internal senses are primed to recognize truth when we are in its presence.

And that is the main reward of a healing recovery: a deep level of sharing your good news of hope with others who are currently suffering from Existential Grief.

The Spark of Hope in Recovery

Who knows?

You may be just the spark someone else has been waiting for to start them off on their own hero’s journey of Existential Grief recovery. Perhaps, in a way, you’ll then realize that you’ll “know” that you’re healed when you begin helping others recover and heal. In that way, perhaps your life’s story can then serve as a model of recovery for others and you’ll have served as a miracle for someone else.

Solutions for Healing Existential Grief

So now that you are aware of and know the 9 stages you must undergo to fully recover from and heal your Existential Grief, and the big questions you must wrestle with, what are some practical solutions to heal yourself? Below are some sample methods that can speed up your process and progress towards recovery and healing.

It’s important to note that not every approach works for everyone since we are all individuals with unique personalities and histories. In the Existential Grief realm, it’s best to take your time since haste often leads to the opposite of your intended outcome. When you try to “rush” your recovery process, you may simply be short circuiting your path to healing.


Multiple research and clinical studies show that the participants or clients that get the best outcomes – long term recovery and healing of grief and Existential Grief – are those who exhibit patience, a willingness to wait or slow down when necessary, and are comfortable with not placing a timeframe on their recovery process.

Of course, this “go slow” approach may make you feel uncomfortable especially if you are someone who is used to getting instant results or immediate gratification. Study outcomes demonstrate that there is an inverse relationship with a desire for speed [”I gotta get this process wrapped up as soon as possible so that I can move on with my life…I don’t have time to wait or fool around….This approach is for slow pokes.”]: the faster you try to go, the less likely you are to be successful recovering from and healing Existential Grief.

Since we live in a world where instant gratification has become the norm…. figuring out “How to heal your Existential Grief” may force you to learn some new habits, e.g. learning to pause without freaking out or learning that healing Existential Grief does not follow “clock time” or behave in a way that you can “control.”

In fact, a key element of any successful recovery is that you have to be able to “let go” and surrender to the process! Ok, if we’re honest, it’s the opposite [behavioral pattern] of being a control freak! Perhaps for some of you, that “bridge” must also be crossed: learning to “give up” the idea of control.

1. Modified Heuristic Self Search Inquiry (HSSI): A method of reflective inquiry created by Dr. Sandy Sela-Smith, HSSI is “a qualitative method of research in which the researcher is the participant of his or her own internal inquiry into the often dark and hidden internal patterns that influence the personal experience of life.” The chief aim of this method is self transformation which is gleaned through self understanding via closely examining your internal psychic and subjective processes. HSSI is a rigorous method that engages your entire Being by requiring you to explore, illuminate and come to grips with unknown elements of your psyche using self dialogue, tacit knowing, intuition, indwelling, focusing and internal frames of reference.

HSSI works by focusing your attention on your bodily felt-sense feelings – 1st person feeling states. In 2012, I published a study of Motherloss and Existential Grief Recovery using a modified neuropsychological and psychophysiological HSSI method which extended this method to include both 1st and 2nd person perspectives of experience. Both approaches use Ken Wilber’s 4 Quadrant model to explore various aspects of your experience; however, my modified version of HSSI provides for a more robust Existential Grief healing experience by addressing unresolved emotion pain and trauma for the “I That Feels” self [1st person] and the “Objective Thinking” self [2nd person].

For instance, you may ask yourself reflective questions such as “What is my feeling sense of my grief?” [1st person]; and “What is the feeling sense of my grief?” [2nd person]. Although at first glance you may not think there is any real difference between asking yourself questions in this fashion, the modified HSSI process can help you tease out aspects of your Existential Grief experience that you have been unaware of or unaware of their significance.

In terms of recovering from Existential Grief, the difference between “What is my feeling” and “What is the feeling” creates significantly different openings to the unconscious, since in the former case, you are answering with your feeling “I” [my] self; in the latter, you are answering with your “objective” or analytical “I” [the] self. The difference in your answers may surprise you since after all, most likely you may never have given any serious thought to these two distinct aspects of yourself. Ask yourself this question: “Who would have taught you those distinctions?” These are not “typical” lunch time, dinner or cocktail party topics of conversation. Even so, try it out for yourself to see how differently your 1st person verses 2nd person self answers these questions. At first, this may all seem too complicated but once you start questioning yourself, you’ll see how easy it is to do, but prepare yourself to learn some “surprises” about yourself that you have either been unaware of, ignored or denied!

The core aim of HSSI is self transformation via self understanding. In terms of recovering from Existential Grief, you’ll need to go deep and uncover and explore your feelings in new ways that will bring up levels of resistance you may not have been aware of that are sabotaging your efforts of achieving wholeness. As respects addiction, you may find that deeply buried patterns of traumatic feelings have built up within that you may have ignored to your detriment. In this way, Existential Grief may be fueling your addictive behaviors.

Although this process can be frightening since you’ll have to excavate previously “unknown” aspects of yourself from deep within your own unconscious mind, as a rule, becoming aware of and releasing repressed emotions and feelings can pave the way to a full recovery. There are no short cuts and you must undergo all 7 steps of the HSSI process to recover from and heal your Existential Grief. HSSI is intuitive in nature so not only will you learn to be more reflective by listening to and developing your intuitive faculties, you’ll also employ your dreams and reverie states to progress through the Existential Grief terrain.

Often a crisis such as addiction can cause you to seek help for your Existential Grief. HSSI is a powerful method which can help you boost your self image, resiliency, stress hardiness and self compassion. It can also allow you to forgive yourself and others and deal effectively with a sense of loss or collapse of identity [your old self]. No matter how you arrive at this stage, to achieve recovery with HSSI, you must undergo the following 7 phases:

Phase 1: Initial Engagement – Discovering a Core Question crying out from within.

Phase 2: Immersion – Intensely “living with” your Core Question moment to moment.

Phase 3: Incubation – Deep levels of non-verbal, pre-verbal and subconscious reflection.

Phase 4: Illumination – Breakthrough, a doorway opens to new knowledge and insights.

Phase 5: Explication – Integration of “meaning” and emergence of new meta-worldviews.

Phase 6: Creative Synthesis – A new awareness arises, inner and outer congruence occurs.

Phase 7: Validation of Meaning – Clarity of purpose and “knowingness” by self validation.

You can learn more about how HSSI can be used to heal Existential Grief here.

2. Humanistic Therapy: This method takes a therapeutic approach that emphasizes human potential and the uniqueness of your personal experiences. The humanistic view is holistic in nature since it assumes that you have an innate capacity for self understanding and psychological well being. This includes being able to grasp the core issues underlying your Existential Grief as well as being able to move towards recovery and healing.

Key aspects of this approach are:

  • Empathetic Understanding
  • Respect
  • Exploration of problems
  • Explorations of goals and expectations
  • Clarification of the helping role
  • Assessment and enhancement of client motivation
  • Negotiation of a contract
  • Demonstration of authenticity.

3. Existential Therapy: Existential Therapists take a therapeutic approach that emphasize helping you find meaning as you encounter the anxieties of life. Here, you are encouraged to meet your anxieties head on by clear headed thinking and taking personal responsibility for your own actions. The existential view encourages creative growth via directly confronting and transforming issues such as loneliness, isolation and despair, into creativity, love and authenticity.

The main goal is to allow you to live a life with meaning as you wrestle with life’s uncertainties in order to reduce suffering. Of course, in the case of Existential Grief, this would mean that you can move on with your life without fear of backsliding because you had not addressed the underlying cases of your traumatic experiences.

4. Gestalt Therapy: This approach emphasizes learning to become more fully present by living in the present moment in order to create a “safe emergency.” Emphasis is placed upon feeling verses intellectually “being in your head.” The Gestalt view holds that increasing your awareness that you are not the sum of your parts and that discomfort arises primarily due to incomplete communications and “unfinished business.” As respects Existential Grief, you’ll experience a “shift” or ontological “knowingness” that you have dissolved your Existential Grief.

Key aspects of this approach are:

  • All individuals are to be seen as a whole
  • The “here and now” is emphasized
  • Causes are not as important as getting results
  • Inner experience is crucial
  • The therapists’ job is to help you “make contact” with the present moment.

5. Transpersonal Therapy: This approach acknowledges you as an individual in the wider societal context including the human spiritual quest for unity and freedom. The transpersonal view is holistic and values incorporating ancient wisdom traditions. As respects Existential Grief, when you arrive at recovery, you’ll be able to easily share your story with others without being fully associated. That means the emotional pain is gone!

Key aspects to this approach are:

  • Recognizes the centrality of the self
  • Values wholeness of Being
  • Encourages expansive and universal self knowledge
  • Acknowledges the restorative healing nature of subjective awareness and intuition
  • The process creates an “awakening” for both client and therapist.

6. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): This is an approach to inter-personal and intra-personal communications that creatively combines elements of hypnosis, language, modeling, psychotherapy and underlying assumptions to arrive at high levels of reflective self improvement. Although considered to be a controversial technique by some in the academic and scientific communities, NLP has achieved a wide following since its origins in the 1970s. NLP was developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in association with Gregory Bateson and is highly regarded in business circles as an effective method that gets results.

In terms of using NLP as a way to recover from Existential Grief, it would be good idea to work with a seasoned NLP coach or therapist who is familiar with the internal grief terrain. There are a wide variety of NLP techniques that can help you move you forward in recovery such as identifying and dealing with internal conflicts in your beliefs and values; imagery and modeling; learning your preferred learning and representational styles combined with advanced uses of submodalities to “get up under the hood” of your Existential Grief.

You can learn more about how NLP can motivate you to successfully deal with addiction and heal your grief and Existential Grief here.

Want to learn more?

If you’d like to learn more about Existential Grief and how you can experience the benefits of healing your Existential Grief, contact me by email at Dr.Bob[at]StressFreeNow[DOT]info. Feel free to contact me with your questions or to schedule a wellness coaching session.