As joyful as the holiday season may be, it often causes extraordinary stress.

Difficulties materialize in different ways: from financial problems to family discord, with various other challenges sometimes spoiling an otherwise celebratory time of year.

And it can be a particularly distressing time for people who’ve had their lives changed by violent crime — and especially for those who’ve lost a loved one to a criminal act. When that happens, sadness and despair often take the place of happiness that should prevail during the holidays.

An annual program in Kansas was designed to help struggling Kansans cope with such devastating losses.

The Kansas Organization for Victim Assistance and the Kansas Attorney General’s Office have worked together to present holiday receptions for friends and family members of crime victims. The ceremonies include having attendees bring ornaments to place on an “Angel Tree” in honor of their loved ones.

Relatives and friends of crime victims need to know the hurt they’re experiencing doesn't end with courtroom proceedings and seeing the people responsible for their loss punished. Sadly, so many people who’ve experienced the loss of a loved one to a homicide, drunken driving incident or other crime may struggle for many years to find closure — if they find it at all.

By providing a warm welcome to folks who know the pain of losing a loved one to violent crime, the ceremonies help those in attendance know they're not alone in their sadness, and also help them understand support is available when needed.

This year’s crime victims remembrance receptions are set to begin in early December:

• Wichita: 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 3 at Dugan-Gorges Conference Center, Newman University, 3100 W. McCormick St.

• Garden City: 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 6 at First Assembly of God Church Hall, 702 Campus Drive.

• Kansas City: 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 17 at Kansas City Memorial Hall, 600 N. 7th St. Trafficway.

• Topeka: 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 20 at Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center Convocation Hall, 1701 SW Jewell Ave.

More information on the events is available on the Kansas attorney general’s website, ag.ks.gov.

Organizers understandably present the ceremonies in bigger cities across Kansas, which see the most loss of life due to criminal activity.

But no town in Kansas and beyond — urban or rural — is immune. That’s why it’s necessary to support programs and other efforts that aid people who've lost someone to crime in communities of every size.

As Thanksgiving and the holiday shopping season draw near, it will be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of another festive season. Yet we all have cause to comfort our friends and neighbors going through tough times, and keep them in our prayers.

The arrival of the holiday season also serves as a reminder of the importance of making the most of holidays and other golden opportunities to enjoy time with family and friends — joyous and valuable experiences that should never be taken for granted.