The Open to Hope Foundation’s Dr. Gloria Horsley talks with musician John Robinson about his work with grief and loss. He had a powerful experience playing music by his grandfather’s bedside in the hospital. After a heart attack, Robinson and his family found they didn’t have words to express how they felt. With music, Robinson began to communicate through the drums. It drowned out the background noise, and slowly families began to seek out Robinson to play privately for their own loved ones.

Nurses also took note of Robinson’s work, and saw that it was a great way to heal—for the player and recipient alike. Later, Robinson happened to meet a doctor in Philadelphia. The doctor was out for a run, and came up to Robinson. He was Robinson’s grandfather’s doctor, and told him that everyone at the hospital still remembers him. Robinson began to reach out to hospices, and began to slowly make his rounds in the grief community.

Instrumental to Healing

Today, Robinson has established programs and works with camps. Music is a great way to build a community while also communicating when words won’t do. He uses five gallon paint buckets, which can be played with just your hands if you like. You can play any side of the drum, and without seeing his instruments you wouldn’t know how simple the materials are.

The drums are designed and created locally, including the tire drum. Robinson makes drums to represent different emotions and messages, too. There’s an angry drum with a “hit me!” sign that lets grievers release negative emotions. Playing music has long been a form of art and creative therapy proven to optimize the healing process. By using simple objects, Robinson says his work is accessible.


Gloria Horsley

Dr. Gloria Horsley is an internationally known grief expert, psychotherapist, and bereaved parent. She started "Open to Hope" to help the millions in the world with grief. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Nurse Specialist, and has worked in the field of family therapy for over 20 years. Dr. Horsley hosts the syndicated internet radio show, The Grief Blog which is one of the top ranked shows on Health Voice America. She serves the Compassionate Friends in a number of roles including as a Board of Directors, chapter leader, workshop facilitator, and frequently serves as media spokesperson. Dr. Horsley is often called on to present seminars throughout the country. She has made appearances on numerous television and radio programs including "The Today Show," "Montel Williams," and "Sallie Jessie Raphael." In addition, she has authored a number of articles and written several books including Teen Grief Relief with Dr. Heidi Horlsey, and The In-Law Survival Guide.

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