As I wait for the divorce to become final, I spend a lot of time thinking about what it will mean when K. and I are no longer legally tied together. Mostly, it has become a way for me to set terms that will keep the children safer and happier, and that is well and good, but when I have more than a fleeting moment, I think about what is gone.

My partner, my lover, my husband, my friend. The person I could come home to, feeling overwhelmed with weltschmerz, and go under the covers with for a mutually reassuring hug. The person who had promised to be my family forever.

I wonder a lot if I will make one last speech to him — for they have been speeches, all my carefully-crafted attempts to get him to remember our promises, to think about the children, to be gentler with us and with himself — in which I enumerate the things I feel he must, someday, own. I am filled with my own regrets, of course; I know that I was not the best partner. The most loving partner. The easiest or the kindest or the most forgiving. Although I was, perhaps, the most constant.

But he has those small failings too. The small failings are allowed; they are not now the subject of reproach. There are bigger, more drastic acts. Acts that he does not seem to realize he has committed, much less understand the effect of on others. And so I want to say to him that he has abandoned me, that he has betrayed me, that he was a cornerstone of my life and of the children’s and that he has ripped us apart. That our family is broken and we are hurting and even as the hurt recedes, becomes dulled, becomes cocooned in whatever we wrap it in so that we can continue to go about our lives, even as this happens, we will never be a whole family again. There is a part of my identity, as a wife, and a part of all of ours, as part of the family we were, that is frozen, shattered, floating in space with a large and essential piece missing, like an aircraft with an engine broken off. We will learn to be a different kind of family — but there will always be the ghost of that wrecked craft haunting us. And maybe I will learn to be a lover or a partner or even, unlikely as it seems (and it does seem unlikely), a wife again, but there will always be a part of me that in the middle of the night cannot quite remember that when I reach out my hand, K. will not be there, and there will always be a part of this that is tender under the scar tissue and that remembers how badly it hurts, still, every day that I am alive and that I am abandoned.

When I was a child, my parents at some point decided to get rid of our two cats because we (the children) weren’t taking good enough care of them. So they drove way out into the country with them and dumped them out the window. They didn’t tell us until we asked where the cats were.

The analogy is obvious: you can get rid of the cats, if that is what you have to do, without abandoning them or betraying trust. It will still hurt. It may not scar.

Perhaps the children will get over this initial hurt in a way I will not. For them I fear, more, the continual small hurts of a father who doesn’t quite understand that it falls to him — let alone how — to love and care for them. Which is itself a terrible burden, a chronic, leaden pain, a slow erosion of happiness and self-esteem until one day you are thirteen and you hate men or you sleep with anyone who’ll push you down or you are filled with anger or you realize you don’t know how to love, or you are afraid to. And why should they not be afraid? What will they see for the rest of their lives but the wrecked hull of their mother, floating in space, trying to do two jobs with one arm, seeping hot and silent tears.

It sounds melodramatic. It is not; it is grief. I have grieved before, but I have never lost someone so central to my life. To have lost that person and have him turn up, without feelings, without ideas, without anything but a truculent sort of resignation to periodic ‘duty’ —

— sometimes it is beyond bearing.

On Monday I went in for my annual. I was seeing a woman, a Nurse Practitioner, I’d last seen when my daughter was born eighteen months ago.  I was shown into a room to wait for her and told to remove all my clothes and put on the gown, open to the front, with the sheet to drape over. And I stood in that room where I was last a young married woman about to have a baby girl to bring home to her beautiful son and the husband who loved her. I stood there in my socks and the hospital gown and I cried, and I watched my tears plop on the linoleum and thought about how much we have lost, are losing, will lose. And then I climbed up on the table and lay there, tears running onto the padded vinyl, waiting to get through one more thing.

It seems that’s what I have to do now. Get through one more thing. And drag my children through with me.