What is restorative justice?

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Héra, Gábor -- sociologist, researcher


Unfortunately my personal experience related to the applicability of restorative justice is connected to a sad event. My beloved grandmother died only a week ago due to her - luckily not too long - illness. Grandma had two children: my mother Kata, who has been living close to her in the past decades and my uncle Tibor, who moved to a village far away when he was young.
The illness, the hospital and the whole situation caused conflicts to surface between the two children – who are in their fifties. In Tibor’s opinion my mother did not take proper care of their old and ill parent. He expressed this opinion mostly during their telephone conversations with my mother, often shouting. Kata, who has a quieter, reclusive, conflict-avoiding personality, could not respond to these accusations. In her words: „I couldn’t stand up for my right”.
The interesting part of their conflict was that they never talked about this in person. If the topic had come up incidentally, Tibor said: “I don’t want to argue with you about this” and Kata did not push further to avoid any conflict, even though deep inside, she felt sad and hurt.
In her point of view she cared about her dying mother with love and attention, therefore she could not find the answer to her questions: Why does my brother make such accusations? What is the reason of his anger towards me? Is it that he was also worried but could not do anything from the distance? Maybe this feeling of inability was behind his aggression or was he misinformed by some family rumours? Or maybe the cause of all this tension lies in his personal or family related problems?
These questions are still unanswered. The two children – adults now, even grandparents – could not solve the conflict. I often think how important it would be to involve a mediator in this or in a similar situation to help everyone understand each other. Someone who can create a safe environment/atmosphere, who can facilitate a discussion between the two parties to express their deep feelings, sorrow and pain. So the two children could experience their common pain of losing a beloved mother – the grief they both feel and could help overcome the pain together.