You don’t realize when you’re 22 that one day you’ll be 50 and your loved ones will be in your life for a limited time.

I’m going to write at HealthCentral in the coming months about bereavement for individuals with mental illnesses. About how parents need to develop a succession plan for their son or daughter who has schizophrenia or another MI.

Nowhere have I seen this issue addressed by anyone anywhere in any medium. Not even by so-called mental health organizations.

It seems so unfair that anyone can develop a life-ending disease. You’re not ever prepared for this. Nor are you prepared for any ordinary loss of your family members.

I like to think that by the time a person is 50 they should’ve done 3 things on their “bucket list.” I was kind of odd in that I typed up a list of “30 by 50”: 30 things I had achieved by the time I was 50. I could count and itemize 30 things. This seems unusual yet there you go.

Yet right now as I confront that the years are gone I think it’s foolish to measure your self-worth by the things you’ve achieved in life. As driven as I am, I don’t think accomplishments count.

I think the measure of a man (and of a woman) is his or her character: how they treated others with dignity, were they kind and compassionate, did they hold the door open for the person behind them.

I’m not impressed with someone’s status in society even if they’re a JD or an MD. Martin Luther King famously told us we should only judge someone by “the content of his character.”

Age brings wisdom. You learn how to pace yourself, to rest when you need to rest, to value what’s truly important and stop focusing on things that don’t matter.

This involves acting with grace and forgiveness towards yourself and others.

If you’re already 50, you’re too old to focus on the negative because doing so will only age your faster.

I’m facing things right now that all of us face on the cusp of 50. It can help to “let go, let life” or “let go, let God” tell you what to do.

Most things aren’t a big deal in the scheme of life.

Yet confronting the loss of your family members isn’t something that people diagnosed with mental illnesses should have to suffer alone.

I’m going to write about bereavement at HealthCentral in the coming months.

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