No stranger to getting rid of major characters, Grey’s Anatomy broke many fans’ hearts last season when Shonda Rhimes woke the world up from McDreamy by killing him off. When Season 12 starts rolling, the series will be going through a time jump – or another time jump, as it were – and it’s got a lot to do with getting past Derek’s death.

The beginning of Season 12 will find the characters three months after the events of the finale, and Rhimes explained that this approach had a lot to do with the grief felt by Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith.
[Meredith] needed there to be time to have passed for her to even be in a place where I felt like she could have a conversation.

Now, Meredith and Derek did spent some time apart in Season 11, but that kind of gap is completely different from having to say goodbye to someone forever, and I don’t hate that Rhimes wanted to streamline that aspect of the story. Technically, she’d already done that in the episodes after Derek’s death, which also skipped forward in time, but this sounds like it’ll be a fresh start for both Meredith and the show in general. Time may not heal all wounds, but it heals most TV plotlines.

And for anyone who thinks that a year is more than enough time for Meredith to mentally move on and allow herself to fall in love again, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Just because she’s partially over the shock of Derek’s death doesn’t mean she’s looking for someone to fill that hole. (No pun intended, seriously.) Here’s how Rhimes explained it to THR.
I keep seeing these things saying we’re replacing McDreamy and Patrick is irreplaceable; that’s not really the point. Meredith is on a journey. She’s always been on a journey and I’m taking her on where the journey leads her and we’ll see what that feels like.

The character that was being pegged to replace Patrick Dempsey’s McDreamy is new series regular Martin Henderson. However, Rhimes says that he won’t get into the show until the middle of Season 12, and she’s not even sure what his place in the show will be.

Derek’s sister Amelia will also be dealing with her mourning over his death, and she’ll “have to really find her feet on her own,” according to actress Caterina Scorsone. Luckily, though, the upcoming season isn’t just one big slog where people miss Derek, as Rhimes specifically brought back some of the lightness and quick banter that made the early seasons enjoyable. She even points out that Meredith should and will be showcasing some dark humor in being a widow. That’s definitely keeping it real, at least to a gallows-minded soul like me.

Catch up with Meredith, April, Amelia and the rest when Grey’s Anatomy returns to ABC for Season 12 starting on Thursday, September 24.

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