English turns to other languages to provide a word that conveys a deep, unfulfilled longing that many people carry throughout life. German gives us sehnsucht, Welsh hiraeth, and Portuguese saudade. These terms do not have exact English equivalents. Sehnsucht has made its way into psychology where its characteristics include utopian conceptions of ideal development, and a sense of incompleteness and imperfection of life. Hiraeth can refer to a longing for a home that no longer exists or never was, but it can also mean missing a time, an era, or a person. Saudade is the nostalgic yearning for the return of something or someone now gone; it’s sometimes referred to as “the love that remains after someone is gone”.

This longing seems to be universal given that a number of languages have tried to accommodate it. C.S. Lewis wrote about it in The Weight of Glory. He described it as a yearning for a far-off country that we’ve never visited and contends that this longing is a pretty good indication that the destination exists.

The Weight of Glory (8 pages) can be found here.

Here is a well-written blog about sehnsucht with interesting comments.

Here is another woman's experience of sehnsucht.