Cover photo for Christine (Cissy) White's Obituary
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1966 Christine (Cissy) 2023

Christine (Cissy) White

December 7, 1966 — April 2, 2023

Weymouth

Christine “Cissy” White

December 7, 1966 - April 2, 2023

Weymouth, MA


So many people are holding this angel of grace, strength, beauty, intellect, humor, and  compassion in their hearts right now, remembering Cissy’s deep kindness and generous, brave
heart. She taught us all how to live.

Cissy leaves daughter Kai Schildmeier, mother Nancy Atwood and her husband Chip (Cissy’s
stepfather), sister Karyn Doherty and her husband John, brother Joseph Atwood and his wife
Mindy, stepbrother Dan Coxall, nieces Rachel and Catrin Doherty, nephews Zane and Kindred
Atwood, beloved aunt and uncle Mary and Jimmy Moy, aunt Diane Shaughnessy, uncle Eddie
Moy, cousins Jeffrey, Michael, Stephen, Danny, Jennifer, Jamie, Andrea, Chris, Corey, Teddy,
Ryan, and Katie. She also leaves her co-parent, her former husband David Schildmeier, as well
as many devoted friends, including caregivers Beth O’Malley, Heidi Aylward, Kathy MacDonald,
and Lynn Tryba. Cissy’s biological father was the late Frank White of Boston.

Although she left us much too early, Cissy never viewed her diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2019
as a tragedy. In her own words: “If I die soon, it will be too soon but it will also not be tragic
because I got peace and a sense of closeness and acceptance of myself. I still feel triumphant
and joyful about this life and I do not feel diminished.”

Cissy’s life was a triumph. Her only regrets were that she couldn’t be here longer for her
daughter and that, as an activist, she didn’t always prioritize having fun. In recent years, Cissy
made a practice of “joy stalking,” a phrase she coined to describe fiercely appreciating “the
small and delicious delights” of everyday life.

Before getting into Cissy’s many accomplishments, we want to take a moment to remember her
one-of-a-kind laugh (her brother-in-law John describes it as a cross between Marilyn Monroe
and Arnold Horschack); the warmth, safety, and acceptance she offered; the long conversations
over glasses of iced coffee; the way she could be so open and verbally appreciative of others
gifts and talents; the way she built connections among her many and assorted friends; the
creative moments, gathering sea glass and making art; the way she spoiled her pets
unapologetically; the way her daughter, Kai was always her number one priority.

Cissy was an outspoken and passionate advocate for trauma survivors, most recently working
at ACEs Connection (now PACEs Connection), a social network that recognizes the impact of
adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in shaping physical and emotional health. Her roles
included Northeast Region Community Facilitator as well as Community Manager, Parenting
with ACEs. “It’s not trauma-informed if it’s not informed by trauma survivors” was her motto; she
always said that healing tools should be affordable, accessible, and appealing to survivors and
that patient-centered care should center patients’ voices, experiences, and collaboration,
otherwise it was hypocritical and silencing. Cis would not stand for anyone being silenced. 
Her survivor-led advocacy work earned her the Touching Trauma at its Heart Award from the
Attachment and Trauma Network, the VOICE for Traumatized Children. Her work was written
about in the Atlantic Monthly, the Boston Globe, and other outlets. She appeared in the
December 2020 PBS News Hour series “Invisible Scars: America’s Childhood Trauma Crisis,” in
an episode about how treating trauma early can help kids cope down the line.

She was a guest on podcasts such as Cancer Connections by the Clarity Foundation and Trauma Therapist
Podcast with Guy McPherson. She was a sought-after speaker on issues related to PTSD and
childhood trauma. Herself a childhood trauma survivor, Cissy knew first hand the power of writing to heal. She
began sharing her journey on her blog healwritenow.com in 2013. In 2014, she collaborated
with artist, writer, and professor Margaret Bellafiore to create Body Language: An Interactive
Installation Exploring the Impact of Trauma, which was shown in Cambridge, MA. The
installation gave visitors the chance to viscerally experience the changes that occur in the body
as a result of surviving trauma. Cissy realized a longtime dream in 2015 when she opened the
Heal Write Now Center in Weymouth. That experience was a powerful way for her to step out
into the world, saying she believed in the healing power of words, community, truth-telling, and
safe and affordable spaces for people to create and share. 
Cissy’s journalism and essays were published in Ms. Magazine online, Elephant Journal, the
Boston Globe, Spirituality Camp; Health, PTSD Journal, PsychCentral, To Write Love on Her Arms,
ACEs Connection, and ACEs Too High, among others.

After being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2019, Cissy became involved in patient advocacy
work, volunteering for the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA) as part of the Survivors
Teaching Students program. Her hope was that future medical professionals better understand
the early symptoms of ovarian cancer in order to prevent misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and
a poorer prognosis, as there’s currently no way to screen for ovarian cancer. After Cissy was
herself misdiagnosed, she was dismayed to learn that ovarian cancer survival rates were no
better than they were decades ago when she had been a caretaker for her beloved maternal
grandmother, Edna “Nan” Shaughnessy, who died of ovarian cancer in 1990. Cissy’s first-person
account of what it was like to be involved in cancer drug trials, “The Clinical Trial Treatment
Train,” was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on August 23, 2022. Throughout
her rigorous and often disheartening treatment, Cis felt seen and supported by the team at
MGH, and especially by her oncologist, Dr. Richard Penson, who knew her as a writer, not only
as a cancer patient. It was their discussions that led to her essay in the NEJM.

Though Cis was proud of her published writing, equally important to her was the expressive
creative writing she did right up until the last week of her life in her weekly writing circle. As she
did her entire life, she leaned into the healing power of writing to hold her in joy and sorrow. She
considered this practice, and the love of her family and friends, her medicine after treatments
failed her.

From 2000 to 2003, Cissy worked in the Communications Camp; Events Planning department for
Wide Horizons for Children, an adoption agency in Waltham, MA, that works with orphaned
children worldwide. In 2003, she and her then-husband David Schildmeier traveled to China to
adopt Kai, the love and light of Cissy’s life. In her own words: My daughter brought the world to
me. My daughter is a beam of sunlight brought to my soul: Cissy was an amazing parent who
devoted her life to ensuring Kai had everything she needed to become the smart, caring, kind,
and impressive young woman she is today, taking an active role as a parent advisor and
member of the board of trustees for the South Shore Charter Public School, and later through
her years as a devoted and proud dance mom at the respective dance academies for which Kai
was an avid dance team competitor; all culminating in Cissy’s great pride in Kai’s admission to
Boston University, where she is a STEM student hoping to become a physician.

Cissy graduated from Bromfield High School in Harvard, MA, in 1985 and earned a BA from
Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, in 1991. Her focus at Hampshire was social psychology
and creative and critical writing. Cis appreciated and supported the work of Beth O'Malley's
Adoption Lifebook's for children and teens who were either adopted or live in foster care; when
she discovered O’Malley and her work, she made a lifelong friend. She found inspiration in the
work of psychotherapist Serben Fisher; guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Krepon Naparstek;
science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa; and writer Nancy Slonim Aronie. Cis always said
Nancy’s writing workshops were where she found her voice.


Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend a visitation for Cissy on Saturday April 15, 2023, from 11-1pm in the CC Shepherd Funeral Home located at 134 Pleasant St (Columbian Sq.) Weymouth.  A service for Cissy will take place immediately after the visitation in the funeral home. Cissy asked that family and friends wear bright colors if they choose. Hot pink was her favorite, but all colors are encouraged. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Ovarian Cancer
Research Alliance. Please visit Cissy’s tribute page at https://give.ocrahope.org/cissy. Checks
may be mailed to Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, PO Box 32141, New York, NY 10087-
2141.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Christine (Cissy) White, please visit our flower store.

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Saturday, April 15, 2023

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Saturday, April 15, 2023

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