When a loved one of American designer Mia Cinelli’s passed away last summer, she found herself grieving for months. “I was left with a void of where his large personality had been,” Cinelli writes on her website. “I carried my grief around with me.”
It was this grief that inspired Cinelli to design The Weight, a six-pound, hand-quilted fleece blanket that simulates the feeling of being hugged. It’s appendaged with two human-sized fabric hands that the wearer can hold. “I made a hand to hold,” Cinelli writes. “I welcomed this weight, this semblance of company. I made another, and another.”
When designing this therapeutic object, Cinelli researched how weighted blankets were used in occupational therapy practices; particularly to relieve the stress, anxiety, and inability to focus typically associated with ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Sensory Processing Disorder. “I wondered if a comparable weighted object could dispel similar feelings caused by losing a loved one,” she writes. Her fiancé, initially skeptical, admitted he felt better when wearing these heavy blankets, which are filled with poly-pellets.
“In moments of feeling the anxiety that accompanies grief, the weight provides a proprioceptive deep pressure, creating a feeling of presence and calm,” Cinelli says. “Its use imitates an intimate gesture, reminiscent of a hug from behind. When I feel relaxed and take the weight off, I feel lighter–both physically and in spirit.”
Cinelli is exploring next steps for her handmade prototypes, considering whether it might someday become a standard fixture at funeral homes, or be sold next to heating pads in pharmacies, or turned into a high-fashion piece. But wherever it ends up, The Weight is a creative, unexpected example of how design can be used to alleviate the deepest and most universal form of emotional pain.