hiraeth (a heart’s longing)

Holidays, birthdays, times of gift giving and food sharing and family have always made me sad. Well, sad isn’t quite the word. I’ve never really been able to describe how I felt when these times rolled around until my sister sent me this word: Hiraeth. A welsh word with no direct English translation but can be described as a “homesickness for a home in which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.”

And I breathed a little sigh. Oh yes, this is it. This is the blossom of familiar almost sadness, seeded in my chest, reaching and wrapping it’s vines around my heart, up to the knot in my throat, where it springs pretty translucent petals out my eyes, silent tears. It’s frustrating and familiar and I think we all feel it every once in a while.

After someone has died, and months later you think you see them when in the grocery, excitement then hiraeth. (Hey Jonar, I’m talking about you)

When you had a life plan that crumbled in your hands before it came to be, and the date passes by, hiraeth.

When you visit childhood homes, to find them alive with someone else’s light, you want to knock just to see what it looks like without you, hiraeth.

It’s to have and to have lost, but it’s also never having the chance to have, and wishing you had. It’s confusing when you miss something that never belonged to you, hiraeth.

It’s freeing to put a name to something, like it has lost a little power over you, you still feel it, but now you can call it, hiraeth. Hiraeth, I feel you, I know you well. I have grown accustom to the ways you have decorated my person, how you have shaped me, that even when you’re not vacationing inside of me, you leave a remnant of yourself with me.


When I came to know the Lord, I thought I would be free of these feeling, this loss, the “my life is so full, why am I empty”. But as I have grown these last three years (has it really been three years with you, my Lord? It has both felt like forever and at the same instant just a moment) I have still felt hiraeth take it’s residence. When it first came, I was shocked: there is no more room for you in this heart, this heart is home to the Savior and to gladness, go! But it did not go, it stayed planted.

But it was no longer just me alone with my hiraeth, I had my Jesus. And as I prayed, I was shown the goodness of all feelings, how God has created all of them to give us depth in this life, to help us grow closer to others, to remind us to lean upon Him.

So now, when my lonely. almost sadness creeps back into me, I thank the Lord for all He has given me, the good and the hard and I try my very best to rejoice in these moments of hiraeth, knowing one day I will stand before the Father completely and utterly fulfilled in His glory.



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