Nostalgia Is Like Feeling an Absence by Your Side

Nostalgia Is Like Feeling an Absence by Your Side
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

The feeling of nostalgia is so common that sometimes it starts to feel like something inherent, something that is part of who we are. This is because it is a sensation with which almost everyone can identify. As humans, we live with nostalgia as something we carry on our backs, we walk with it, we dance with it, we embrace it in hard times. It is as if on those days that are most difficult, and we cannot see clearly, we can see more through our nostalgia.

“Nostalgia is loving a past that destroys us in the present. It is delayed happiness. It is sleeping in a hammock and continuing to remember the times of burning reconciliation after a fight for no good reason. It is feeling the lack of details. Nostalgia does not kill only because it has the pleasure of  torture.”

-Gabito Nunes-

We feel nostalgia about relationships, past times in our lives, things we used to have that are no longer present that we maybe wish were still there for us. We also feel this sense of longing about our present that is not exactly how we may have planned it, or for something that never came to pass. We are made up of moments, of details, of embraces, of words… Undoubtedly, this feeling is so real that it feels like we ourselves embody it, and that is why it can affect us so strongly.

mermaid on shore nostalgia

Sometimes our nostalgia feels so big, we become it 

It has been said that our past is like a foreign country from which we have been exiled. So, like a person who has suffered exile and is cold and cast out, we sometimes want to return to the comfort and warmth. In this sense, this figurative exile may be very far away, but at the same time it exists in the present.

Nostalgia, wanting to go back in time, is our attempt to understand who we are based on who we were. This does not mean that we don’t want to live in the present or that we don’t enjoy our present life, but rather that we recognize ourselves and we are conscious of our past and what we have experienced.

“Sometimes nostalgia is so big that it becomes more than just a feeling. People are  nostalgia. It means living to find one person’s eyes on every face and in any improbable corner of the world. It is confusing their hair, their mouths, their perfume. It is smiling with your lips, while your heart is suffocating.” 

-Gabito Nunes-

As this Portuguese writer states, people experience this feeling when we are missing something tiny and seemingly insignificant, but it becomes part of who we are. This tiny thing, seen through this lens, is an absence. When we see it and feel it through that lens, we need it with all of our being. Therefore, we become our nostalgia. Just like in love, we cannot feel it half-way. It accompanies us in all of our words, all of our thoughts, and all of our gestures.

woman hugging world nostalgia

The two faces of nostalgia

The truth about this strong emotion, just like so many other things in life, is that it has two faces. When we hear the word itself, we understand right away that we are talking about something sad and sweet at the same time. 

To miss our family, friends, or former partner for example is to feel temporarily unprotected. However, simultaneously it is like an embrace when that absence is the same as knowing who we have and who we truly want with us.

“To feel nostalgia is to radically change one’s routine, to eat more salad and less sorbet. Nostalgia is the  uncomfortable expectation of a re-meeting. It is imagining where one should be right now. And when nostalgia does not fit in one’s chest, it materializes and is transmitted through the eyes.” 

-Gabito Nunes-

girl crying nostalgia

It is true that we often feel nostalgia and even more when we find ourselves in certain difficult times of the year. However, it is brave to acknowledge and understand that nostalgia is the absence of something in life that is or was worth having or experiencing. It is the absence of something that is or was beautiful, something that brought happiness to our lives.

This is an act of bravery because that absence may be permanent. In that case, though it may be difficult, we must come to see nostalgia as the price of the most beautiful things in life.  We will never have this feeling without having felt the certainty of real happiness. 

In addition to all of this, we should let this feeling of nostalgia fill us up, engages us with the world, and shows us that we are truly living, no matter what the consequences may be.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.