Yvonne Richmond Tulloch is founder of AtaLoss.org and writes:
Remembrance Day this year will be the centenary of the 11th hour of the 11th month when the guns fell silent, ending World War I. It conveniently falls on a Sunday, when there will be a series of events to mark the centenary. This will include commemorative services in most parts of England, many organised by Churches Together groups. Significantly, church and other bells everywhere will ring out as they did at the end of the First World War.
Although always looking back to the fallen of the War, Remembrance Day has changed over the years. Originally ‘Armistice Day’ – the moment when the World War I hostilities ceased, and focused on commemorating its dead – it became ‘Remembrance Day’ after the Second World War to commemorate those who had died in both world wars, and has gone on to include all those in our armed forces who have died in service since.
Some have recently called for further change – to abolish the day – to move on from remembering the horrors of war and look to the future with more positive thinking. After all, no one living experienced the First World War, and even those who can recall the Second World War are elderly and declining in number. Another suggestion has been the 100 days of prayer from August 4th to November 11th, praying for peace and reconciliation in our own time.
Personally, I would welcome further change and ask if the churches in England might have a ‘Season of Remembrance’ of which Remembrance Day would be a part. It would be a season that would embrace all who have died at any time and give everyone living a chance to stop and remember anyone they have lost.
We need this because we have a general sense of ‘death- denial’ in our society, which has arisen since the two world wars, and which has left us ill equipped to deal with grief. Open and expressive sorrow was strongly discouraged after the world wars. Add to that the removal of death and bereavement from homes to hospitals and funeral directors, plus advances in medicine, we now don’t tend to expect death and we have little understanding of its impact. Consequently, the bereaved find themselves devoid of the support they need to facilitate healthy grieving.
To grieve is necessary for well being; Psalms (126:5-6) talks about it, Jesus modelled it (John 11:35), the Beatitudes encourage it (Matthew 5:4) and James (1:27) even says that supporting the bereaved is authentic church.
Thankfully, many churches have All Souls services or ‘Remembering’ services at this time of year. They offer a place where grief is expected and accepted and where unresolved pain and issues can be expressed. But so much more could and should be done by churches to help the bereaved today to process their loss – not least of all because death brings out the questions of purpose and destiny for which the church has the answers.
Following my own experience of loss I created a charity AtaLoss.org, to signpost the bereaved to the existing national support services and, in particular, to help churches provide local support. There are good resources, which have been and are being developed. By calling for a ‘Season of Remembrance’ I’m asking the churches to engage more with death and bereavement which would be a fitting progression from the legacy of the wars.
AtaLoss.org provides a one-stop-shop website for signposting the bereaved to appropriate and local support services and training for churches in bereavement support.
Here is a list of resources for remembering those who have died in war.