"Grey's Anatomy" Ellen Pompeo
Credit: ABC

As the longest-running medical drama on primetime television, It’s normal to see main cast members—think: Patrick Dempsey or Justin Chambers—come and go from Grey’s Anatomy. However, the recent loss of one character may lead to suspicion about the show’s longevity and if Grey’s Anatomy is ending after season 19. 

In the Grey’s Anatomy season 19 midseason premiere, “Thunderstruck,” Meredith Grey (played by Ellen Pompeo) delivered the jaw-dropping news that she was leaving Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, packing up her kids and starting fresh in Boston. 

Her decision may have been cemented when her house burned down during a lightning storm. Thankfully, no one was harmed, and the iconic Post-It note shared between Meredith and Derek Shepherd (played by Dempsey) was saved. 

Even though there were 16 episodes left in season 19 — and five new interns at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital — at the time of Meredith’s exit, the major cast change left viewers with concerns that Grey’s Anatomy will be ending after season 19. 

Is Grey’s Anatomy ending after season 19?

"Grey's Anatomy" Ellen Pompeo

Is Grey’s Anatomy ending after season 19? The answer is no. Variety confirmed in March 2023 that Grey’s Anatomy was renewed for a 20th season by ABC. The magazine also reported Meg Marinis, who is an executive producer on Grey’s Anatomy, will replace the series’ previous showrunner, Krista Vernoff, after Vernoff’s exit at the end of season 29. Still, Meredith is one of Grey’s Anatomy OG characters, and has been there since the medical drama premiered in 2005. So it’s fair to wonder how her departure will impact the show’s future. Pompeo confirmed to Entertainment Tonight in February that the mid-season premiere was not the last time viewers will hear from her or Meredith this season. “For the record, it’s not really my final,” she said. “It’s a little bit of a trick they’re playing on people.”

Viewers knew this day was coming, though, as Pompeo announced her character’s departure in an Instagram post November 2022. While saying goodbye and expressing her gratitude to the fans and the television show, she shared a positive message about the show’s future.  “This isn’t your first time on the rollercoaster… you know the show must go on and I’ll definitely be back to visit,” Pompeo said in the caption. 

But even though most viewers knew this change was coming, it didn’t make it any easier. Fans took to the Grey’s Anatomy’s Instagram to voice their concerns about Meredith leaving in a recent montage teasing her farewell. “No Meredith [means] no Grey’s for me anymore. Now all the original residents are gone!! Sad,” one user wrote. Another user was more straightforward, “This should be the series finale…” 

Speculation surrounding the show’s eventual ending in tandem with Meredith’s departure may stem from previous statements from Pompeo and Shonda Rhimes, the series’s creator. In the past, both parties said they predicted the ending to come around that time, according to Screenrant. But for those of us fearing the worst (aka, that the end is near), we have some positive news that hints season 19 wont be Grey’s Anatomy’s final season. “No decisions have been made at this time, but we hope to be in business with Shondaland for a really long time,” Simran Sethi, executive vice president of content and strategy for ABC Entertainment, told Deadline in 2022. 

Although the show won’t be the same without Meredith, her leaving isn’t necessarily an omen. As Sethi pointed out in the same interview, it’s been a long time since a new class of interns was introduced. Bringing in fresh characters, like Jules Millin (Adelaide Kane), Benson Kwan (Harry Shum Jr.), Mika Yasuda (Midori Francis), Simone Griffith (Alexis Floyd) and Lucas Adams (Niko Tehro), might be a positive sign for the longevity of television’s longest-running medical drama. 

Additionally, Rhimes doesn’t have a plan for Grey’s Anatomy‘s ending, which suggests that it could be a while away. “I’ve had 15 different endings for this show, and the show just keeps going. So anything that I had ever planned is no longer even mildly relevant,” Rhimes told People in November 2022.

In the same interview, Rhimes explained that the arrival of executive producer Krista Vernoff six years ago helped to change what she envisioned for the show’s ending. But in January of this year, news broke that Vernoff is also leaving the medical drama franchise, according to The Hollywood Reporter. According to the same report, it’s likely that Grey’s Anatomy will return for a 20th season (phew!). 

For now, viewers can confidently watch the season unfold knowing that even though most of the original cast members have left, we have new characters with fresh storylines to follow.  Saying goodbye to a beloved character likely won’t be easy for viewers. Still, it’s also an opportunity to get to know a new cast of interns, a fresh set of storylines and hopefully a brand-new season 20 in the future. 

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

Check out the real-life partners of your favorite Grey’s Anatomy stars in the gallery below