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Remember that thrill you used to get knowing a new season of Grey’s Anatomy was just around the corner? That it would be days to go until we finally learned who survived a horrific plane crash. Or whether Webber survived a super-storm. Or knowing that McDreamy would be back, a changed man, after somehow surviving a shooter who lodged a bullet in his aorta.

The sad reality is that McDreamy didn’t survive last season. He died, and we were told to grieve long before the finale. The show might have jumped ahead in time so that Meredith and the other characters could deal, but our shattered hearts were left on the side of the road with Derek’s obliterated car. Creator Shonda Rhimes had done some pretty gnarly stuff to us as viewers over the years, but this one kind of took the cake.

But now that the show is back for a 12th season, we might finally be okay with the fact that Derek Shepard won’t be among the surgeons roaming the halls at the hospital formerly known as Seattle Grace. And that’s all because of Ms. Rhimes herself:

Either Derek was “going to walk out on Meredith and leave her high and dry,” or he was going to die.

Well, how’s that for a kicker. Obviously Derek couldn’t actually cheat.

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MerDer has been the heart of the show since Day 1. That’s why ours hurt so much when he died.

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Keeping him alive and having him cheat would “suggest that the love was not true, the thing we had said for 11 years was a lie, and McDreamy wasn’t McDreamy,” Rhimes continued.

“So, for me, that was untenable. The only way to preserve what felt true to me was that Derek was going to have to die in order for that love to remain honest. I really couldn’t have the idea that he just he turned out to be a bad guy and walked out on his wife and his kids be a true story.”

Well when she puts it like that…

On the plus side, this really will be a whole new side of Meredith we’ll see when the show returns. Obviously she won’t be happy, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be interesting (after all, “Meredith Grey has never been defined by a man”). Dare we say it might even be a little more fun now that her two sisters, Amelia and Maggie, are moving in with her?

“There’s a much lighter tone we’re going for,” Rhimes confirms. “We do have this world in which Meredith is single and she is living this life she never thought she would be living again. She’s surrounded by women who are dating and having a whole life, and she’s not interested in any of that.”

Professionally, that could mean a whole heck of a lot for Mer too. Like finally transcending some of that “averageness” that her mom accused her of having, perhaps?

“What I’m excited about is the medical growth she’s experiencing as a leader, who she’s becoming as a person, and the evolution of that woman and where she’s going,” Rhimes wrapped. “So in a weird way, I guess the theme is rebirth. That evolution for that character is really, I think, beautiful.”

All right, fine. We suppose when you look at it that way, we might finally be ready to close the book on Derek Shepherd. But we will always, always, always hold onto the good times.

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Grey’s Anatomy returns Thursday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. ET on CTV.