Grey's Anatomy, Meredith Grey, Ellen Pompeo
Credit: ABC

If you’ve been missing her at Grey Sloan these past few episodes, you may be wondering: Where did Meredith go on Grey’s Anatomy and is she returning?

Grey’s Anatomy is ABC’s medical drama following the personal and professional lives of surgical interns, residents and attendings at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital (previously known as Seattle Grace Hospital and Seattle Grace Mercy West) in Seattle, Washington. Ellen Pompeo, who has starred on Grey’s Anatomy since season 1 in 2005, plays Meredith Grey, the daughter of famed surgeon Ellis Grey and the former Chief of General Surgery at Grey Sloan, who started Grey’s Anatomy as a surgical intern.

After 19 seasons and 18 years on Grey’s Anatomy, Pompeo announced she was leaving the show in an Instagram post in November 2022. “I am eternally grateful and humbled by the love and support you have all shown me, Meredith GREY and the show for 19 seasons!” she wrote at the time. “Through it all….none of it …would have been possible without the best fans in the world.” Pompeo’s seemingly last episode of Grey’s Anatomy aired on February 23, 2023. If you haven’t seen the episode, you may be wondering where Meredith and if she’ll be returning. So…where did Meredith go on Grey’s Anatomy? Read on for what we know about where Meredith went on Grey’s Anatomy and why Ellen Pompeo is leaving the show.

"Grey's Anatomy" Ellen Pompeo

Where did Meredith go on Grey’s Anatomy

Where did Meredith go on Grey’s Anatomy? In season 19, episode 6, Meredith Grey sends an email to the staff at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, telling them that she was leaving the hospital and moving from Seattle, Washington, to Boston, Massachusetts, to take a job with the Catherine Fox Foundation, which is run by Grey Sloan’s former Chief of Plastic Surgery Jackson Avery, who also left Grey Sloan in season 17. As Meredith’s three kids — daughters Zola Grey and Ellis and son Derek Bailey — pack up their house, lightning strikes a tree outside their window and the tree catches on fire. When Meredith, who is in surgery at the time of the incident, learns that her house is on fire, she rushes out of the operating room to find her children alive but her house ablaze, with everything inside it — except her and her late husband Derek Shepherd’s Post-It note wedding vows, which her sister Maggie Pierce was able to save — destroyed.

The next episode — season 19, episode 7 “I’ll Follow the Sun” — picks up some time after the lightning strike. Viewers learn that Meredith and her kids had moved into a hotel, and her sisters — Amelia Shepherd and Maggie, who were living at her house at the time of the fire — had found other places to live. With her house destroyed and nothing left for her in Seattle (except for her love interest, Nick Marsh), MerLedith prepares for her family to move to Boston. The episode continues with Seattle Grace throwing a farewell party for Meredith before she took off to Boston. The episode ends with Nick calling Meredith to tell her that he loved her after their fight over her move, which she pretends not to hear and tells him that she’ll call him back after she lands. The episode ends with Seattle Grace’s new residents — Simone Griffin, Lucas Adams and Mika Yasuda — moving into Meredith’s house, which she handed over to them as it underwent repairs following her fire.

Did Meredith leave Grey’s Anatomy for good?

Did Meredith leave Grey’s Anatomy for good? The answer is no. Ellen Pompeo, who’s played Meredith since season 1 of Grey’s Anatomy, confirmed to Entertainment Tonight in February 2023 that “I’ll Follow the Sun” wasn’t her last episode of Grey’s Anatomy. “For the record, it’s not really my final,” she said. “It’s a little bit of a trick they’re playing on people.” She added, “It is my final episode for a while.”

The Hollywood Reporter confirmed at the time that Meredith’s official last episode of Grey’s Anatomy will be the season 19 finale on May 26, 2023. The magazine also reported that Pompeo remains as an executive producer on Grey’s Anatomy and continues to voice Meredith’s signature narrations that often play at the start and end of each episode.

"Grey's Anatomy" Ellen Pompeo

Why did Ellen Pompeo leave Grey’s Anatomy?

Why did Ellen Pompeo leave Grey’s Anatomy? Pompeo announced she was leaving Grey’s Anatomy after more than 18 years on the show in an Instagram post in November 2022. “I am eternally grateful and humbled by the love and support you have all shown me, Meredith GREY and the show for 19 seasons!” she wrote at the time. “Through it all….none of it …would have been possible without the best fans in the world. You all are RIDERS and you all have made the ride so fun and ICONIC!! I love you madly and appreciate you right back. This isn’t your first time on the rollercoaster… you know the show must go on and I’ll definitely be back to visit. With a lot of love and immense gratitude XoE”

Pompeo’s announcement came three months after Variety reported that she was taking a reduced role on Grey’s Anatomy season 19 due to filming for her upcoming Hulu miniseries. The miniseries, which is still untitled, follows a midwestern couple who adopts a child they believe to be an 8-year-old girl with a rare form of dwarfism. As the couple raise the girl alongside their three biological children, they start to realize she may not be who she says she is. The series — which Pompeo stars in and executive produces — is based on the case of Natalia Grace Barnett, a six-year-old girl whose adoptive parents, Kristine and Michael Barnett, claim was really a woman in her late 20s.

In an interview with Variety in October 2022, Grey’s Anatomy‘s showrunner at the time, Krista Vernoff, explained Pompeo’s decision to take a reduced role. “She has so many projects in development as a producer, and the Hulu project as an actress,” Vernoff said. “And she’s really excited to spread her wings, and we want to support her in that — while she will always be in the fabric of our show.” Vernoff told Variety that she learned in the spring of 2022 that Pompeo wanted to take a reduced role for Grey’s Anatomy season 19, which resulted in the writers casting five new series regulars — played by Harry Shum Jr., Adelaide Kane, Alexis Floyd, Midori Francis and Niko Terho — to take “a big, bold swing” and add fresh blood to the series amid Pompeo’s absence. “The blood of the show — the lifeblood, the early success — was about the impact of trying to become a surgeon when you have no idea what you’re doing,” Vernoff said. “And there was a reason for that. We needed them to be green. We needed them to be new at this, and to be able to make mistakes that were profound and impactful — not just on their own lives, but on the lives of their patients. And adding five new series regular interns does that for us.”

Vernoff also confirmed that ABC still plans to continue Grey’s Anatomy even after Pompeo leaves. “I think that this show has legs,” she said. “I think that Ellen is extraordinary, and she’s been an extraordinary center of this show for a really long time. And if her career takes her in another direction, I believe that we’ve got a show here with a lot of amazing characters that our fans love. And this new class of interns is really exciting.”

In an essay for The Hollywood Reporter in 2018, Pompeo explained how she and ABC landed on a deal for her to make $550,000 per episode on Grey’s Anatomy after she had become “bored” of acting. “CAA compiled a list of stats for me, and Grey’s has generated nearly $3 billion for Disney. When your face and your voice have been part of something that’s generated $3 billion for one of the biggest corporations in the world, you start to feel like, ‘OK, maybe I do deserve a piece of this,'” she said.

She continued, “What I said to [creator] Shonda [Rhimes] is the truth: ‘I don’t get to do anything else, and that’s frustrating for me creatively,” she said. “I make 24 episodes of TV a year, and as part of this deal, I cannot appear anywhere else. And directing is cool but, to be honest, it just takes me away from my kids.’ Then I said, ‘So, it’s got to be a ton of money. And it has to help me with my producing because producing is something I really enjoy. That’s my creativity now.’ Acting, to me, is boring. An actor is the least powerful person on set, so I don’t care about chasing roles. Plus, at my age, it’s pretty unrealistic. Not that I can’t do a cool cable thing, but I’m not going to have this whole second life as a movie star. I’m not f—in’ Julia Roberts.”

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursday at 9 p.m. on ABC.

For more on Grey’s Anatomy, check out our photo gallery on the Grey’s Anatomy cast’s real-life relationships