The 5 Stages Of Snow Day Grief

by Clint Edwards
snow day
Imgorthand / iStock

I grew up in Utah, and I can think of only a handful of snow days as a child. Sometimes I wondered if they put a plow on the school bus. I spent a few years in Minnesota, and it was the same way. But in Western Oregon, we can get a dusting of snow and everything shuts down. I mean, I get it. They just aren’t equipped to handle snow here. They don’t get it all that often.

But for hell’s sake, schools were just shut down for four days, and I honestly thought the world might end soon. Every time we have a snow day, I go through a few emotional stages that are surprisingly similar to the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief: the series of emotions experienced by terminally ill patients prior to death. Below is what I’m talking about.

(Note to reader: If you are one of those parents who looks forward to snow days and having your life blown up because school is unexpectedly closed for the day, stop reading now. This post isn’t for you. And stay out of the comments section, because you’re just going to be a buzzkill. Let us bitch in peace.)

1. Denial

The moment you get the email from school telling you classes are canceled, you immediately assume a mistake was made and cling to a false, preferable reality where you still drop off your children just like any other day. You check a few more sources, listen to the radio for a moment, pray until the reality sets in that whatever you had planned for the day has gone right out your ass.

2. Anger

This stage sets in when you tell your children that school is canceled, and they scream and jump in the air as you feel a tightness in your chest. It’s reality now, and everything just got more complicated. Now you have to bring all the kids shopping.

If your workplace is still open, you will probably call in sick or take them with you, which always makes a workday twice as long because suddenly you are sending emails while trying to get your kids to shut up. However, you can’t speak to them in the same frankness as usual without your co-workers judging you, so you end up offering them a million trips to the vending machine. Certain psychological responses of a person undergoing this phase could be: “Why me? It’s not fair!” “How can this happen to me?” “Who is to blame?” and “Screw this! I’m going to make an igloo and move into the backyard.”

3. Bargaining

The third stage involves the hope that you can avoid the reality of the snow day. This is when you give the kids the tablet for the day, or offer to rent the BFG on Amazon Prime, or hand over the Netflix code, or agree to make mac and cheese. All of it is part of a negotiation you make to get a moment or two to send a few emails for work, or wash a few loads because it’s laundry day and you don’t want to be swimming in dirty clothing for the next week.

4. Depression

The moment you give up on getting any work done — because the fact is, you’ve spent most of the day screaming, “Shut he door! You’re letting the heat out!” while soaking melted snow off the entry way with a towel — is when you’ve hit the fourth stage. You feel sick in your gut, and you just can’t handle it anymore. Responses of a person undergoing this phase could be, “I’m so sad. Why bother with anything?” and “I’m going to die soon, so what’s the point?” (Last snow day I hit this around noon, but some parents have much more endurance.)

5. Acceptance

In the last stage, you embrace the inevitable. Your day is shot, and the kids aren’t going to give you a moment of peace, so you go out into the yard and make a snowman. “It’s going to be okay,” you say. “I can’t fight it. I may as well enjoy myself.”

I think most families go through many of these stages during a snow day, although many may not experience all of them. And they may come out at different times and in different ways. But one thing is for sure; By the end of a snow day, or especially several snow days, everyone is ready for a little time apart. You put the kids to bed, and then you look up to some higher being and pray for sunshine tomorrow.