By: David Cavanaugh, LCSW. Cavanaugh currently serves as Director of Catholic Charities’ Family Services program and has worked for CCDA for 32 years. He is a parishioner at St. Mary’s in Alexandria.

“I would say that at the root of so many contemporary situations is a kind of impoverishment born of a widespread and radical sense of loneliness.”

Pope Francis, Address to Bishops attending World Meeting of Families, 9/27/15

Did the Christmas season leave you with unmet expectations?


Unmet expectations of family gatherings without strife or criticism? Unmet expectations of giving or receiving the perfect gift?

The lights and frivolity of the season, the jovial commercials, our friends’ perfectly curated Christmas cards and Facebook posts…they can leave us fraught with the way things should be in our homes and in our hearts.

These “holiday blues” touch many of us in different ways. In some people, it can manifest in a mild form of seasonal depression or adjustment disorder.

If this is you or someone you know, Catholic Charities is here to help. Our Family Services counselors treat many clients who are suffering in these ways, in addition to those suffering from many other mental health issues.

Meet Anna.

Anna (name changed to retain anonymity) is a 63-year-old widow living on a meager $15,000 a year. Having recently lost her adult daughter, she is caring for her adolescent grandchildren in her home. At Christmas, she prepared modest gifts for them – a sacrifice she made by postponing dental care she badly needs. While this simple act of giving is empowering for Anna, it also accentuated her sense of loss.

Anna’s priest recommended she seek counseling with Catholic Charities.

Counseling prompted Anna to share some of her most painful experiences, hardships and abuses – things she’s never disclosed before. She told her counselor she was unsure that she would survive the grief from her daughter’s death. Counseling has given Anna the courage to reclaim her sense of grace and dignity. It has reminded her of her robust capacity to offer love, no matter her circumstances or expectations.

In thinking of Anna and those around us suffering from depressive disorders… how can we share the light of Christ with those in need?

Let us focus on being a child in the arms of our Father. Let us be aware of being small, at the mercy of forces outside of our control and utterly dependent on the care and protection of others. Let us recall that, at Christmas, we celebrated the incarnation of the Christ child.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Emmanuel! God is with us! He is born, not only on Christmas, but in our hearts every day. He is our light in the darkness of grief and expectations, our hope in a grief-stricken world, our undeserved and unimaginable gift.

Our Catholic-based counseling is available for anyone in need and is offered on a sliding scale. We see currently see clients in 13 locations across the Diocese of Arlington. For more information, please call our counseling intake coordinator at (703) 841-2531 or contact our Director of Clinical Services, Dr. Michael Horne, at To enable us to continue counseling those in need, please go to our donation page and make a gift today.