Hiraeth for Autism

Hiraeth pronunciation:-

Hi – The Hi from Hiccup

Rae – pronounced the same as the wry of a wry smile (if you pronounce wry with a rolled ‘R’, but let’s not overcomplicate)

Th – The Th from Think


Hiraeth is an untranslatable Welsh word. It’s often described as homesickness or a sort of nostalgia, but these translations don’t touch on the strength of the feeling.


Hiraeth is a deep longing for somewhere. It is that pull within your chest for a space where you belong. It’s that feeling you get when you smell the scent of home, or when the wind ripples through the grass in the right way.


When I lived in England for more than a decade, I would feel Hiraeth for home. Crossing the Severn bridge would begin to alleviate it. The further I travelled through the hills, over and under the rolling valleys, the further I went, the more I felt surrounded by home.


I have Hiraeth for my memories of standing on a hilltop as a teen; the sea in the distance, the undulating hills, the unavoidable sheep, the threads of different shades of green that slipped from here to there. My home, my connection to the world.


That connection was never through people, it was always deeper. My Hiraeth was in the bones of the land; the rocks of the Cambrian mountains, ancient and layered in their slumber. It was in the skies above, where the buzzards and red kites swooped, and the dawn chorus roared its defiance.


My Hiraeth kept me connected to my land, and it gave me a deep sense of belonging, that people couldn’t provide. I had not found my space in the world of humanity. I did not know why I was out on the edge, and I felt it keenly, but I knew there was a place that was home.


I had another Hiraeth that yearned at me. I needed to belong, and I did not, no matter how hard I tried. I did not have a name for my inner space of belonging.


Not until my autism diagnosis.


My Hiraeth for home, brought me back to Wales. My Hiraeth for belonging, brought me to the autistic community.


I am no longer the lonely traveller banging on empty doors, I am a person who connects in her own ways, with her own people.


Hiraeth for autism is a longing to belong and to be like other people; a deep need to not be alone in your neurotype; the knowledge that you are not faulty, you are different; that people do not respond to your natural communication forms, because theirs have another style, but that there are people who do share yours.


We all need to feel connected. We all have Hiraeth for something. I know who I am, and I know where I am from, and these are powerful things. My Hiraeth was rootless and flailing for many years, now it has another foundation, another connection, another belonging.

20 thoughts on “Hiraeth for Autism

  1. My favorite quote of 10 or so years, from a long-lost poem belonging to Hunter S. Thompson, is: ‘All my life my heart has sought a thing I cannot name.’ You have finally given me a word to describe this seeking. Endless gratitude!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. There is a Portuguese word, Saudade, which implies the same concept as Hiraeth, as you explained it. I don’t speak Portuguese, but the Fado is full of it! There is also the Yiddish “benken”, which is a verb and means to experience longing or yearning. I don’t speak any Yiddish either, but we had a tape with Yiddish songs and a songbook to go with it when I grew up, so I picked up a few words.

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    1. Ah yes, I had heard of Saudade which is similar. I wonder if it’s countries with a need to retain their identity (due to it being actively quashed at times) that create a word for the longing.

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      1. German too has a similar word Sehnsucht. (Literally: a yearning search). Interestingly, the verb form for yearning is reflexive: ich sehne mich nach–i yearn (myself )after or for–which also seems to accentuate that inward quality of the feeling. I speak German only haltingly and as a second language, so If by chance i have butchered the language, please forgive me! Nice post by the way. Gave me a bit of Heimweh (home pain, or long for home) for Germany!

        Liked by 4 people

  3. Wow, I thought it was only me. Still miss my parents’ house that I haven’t lived in for the last thirty years. It brings me back to my childhood, a time when everything was magical.

    I also don’t see people when thinking about the jobs I used to have and the places I used to live. I see places, activities I used to do, food I used to eat, the sun, the early hour.

    I used to have that need to belong when I was younger, a deep need to belong and know there’s nothing wrong with me. But I know now there’s nothing wrong, just different. And I’ve given up on belonging. Never felt like I belonged anywhere anyway.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Reblogged this on Laina's Collection – sharing Aspergian/autistic writing and commented:
    I’m relieved that I’m not the only one who has felt this way! 😊 My problem is that I often find myself homesick for a place I’ve never been. What’s really interesting–and this has happened to me only once–is to suddenly be reunited with one of those places. It’s amazing. But rare 💗 I can relate to this so much! A beautiful post 🌺


  5. I am raising an Autistic grandson…with 65% brain damage, he was a shaken syndrome child at 6 months…he’s 12 now…but I often see that far away look on his face, and wonder what is going through his head. Reading this helps me understand a little bit more…thank you Rhi !!

    Liked by 1 person

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