For most people, the holidays are joyous times to spend with family. But for those who have lost someone close to them, they can be times of pain and grief.
That's where a Rapid City hospice group steps in.
This Christmas will be Joe McCarty's second without his wife of 63 years by his side.
"It's kind of like cutting off your right arm and throwing it over in the corner somewhere," he said. "And you have to get used to getting along with one arm," a process made easier with the help he received from the grief counselors at Hospice of the Hills.
"It's a job," he said of learning to live without a loved one, "but you get there eventually."
That doesn't mean the holidays will be easy for McCarty or the countless others who have lost loved ones.
"Holidays are always memories," said Laurie Traub, a grief counselor at Hospice of the Hills.
They're memories Traub advises the grief-stricken to embrace.
"The worst thing you can do is just pretend like nothing's happened," she said.
That's where Sunday afternoon's annual Tree of Lights celebration can help.
"This might be the last time somebody will hear a loved one's name and they say, 'Yes, I'm here for them.'"
Names were announced, and the families hung ornaments bearing the names of loved ones lost in the last year on a Christmas tree set up at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
"You never have to let go," Traub said. "Ever."
The memories help keep relationships alive emotionally and spiritually, she added, without the overwhelming grief.
"Time goes on," McCarty said, "and you begin to get used to the idea that she's no longer around."
Counselors say the next of kin has to set the tone around the holidays.
You can start by sharing a fond memory, and others will follow. That can be a good way to relieve tension and help in the grieving process.