There aren’t enough tissues in Seattle to handle all the tears that came during the two-hour Grey’s Anatomy episode that followed Derek Shepherd’s death. In the aftermath of Derek’s (Patrick Dempsey) car accident, everyone at the hospital formerly known as Seattle Grace grieved in different ways — and Meredith Grey’s (Ellen Pompeo) instinct was to run.
For many months, Meredith was MIA with no one to save her now that husband was gone, and things took a few shocking turns as the Grey Sloan Memorial doctors tried to move on from Derek’s death. Two people went off to the Army, another held in her feelings until it was almost too late, someone took charge of the “search” for Mer, and another freaked out in the middle of the hospital. And those are just five out of the many intense and emotional reactions throughout the extended episode.
As we grieve Derek, let’s look back at how everyone in the hospital dealt with his death and Meredith’s absence.
Meredith, Before She Runs
All of Meredith’s emotions were expressed via flashbacks of her mother, Ellis Grey (Kate Burton), after Richard (James Pickens Jr.) left her. Their lives were parallel throughout the episode, starting with Ellis saying, “he’s gone and I’m here” while Meredith unplugged Derek. When she got back to Grey Sloan, she had to repeat “Derek is dead” three times before anyone in the room heard or understood her, and by the time they reacted in disbelief, she collapsed on the floor.
The funeral happened in the first 10 minutes of the episode, and although it was implied that Cristina (Sandra Oh) returned — Meredith was seen clutching the hand of a woman with dark, curly hair — we didn’t see her or Derek’s ex-wife Addison (Kate Walsh) there. After the funeral, Meredith was sitting alone, flashing back to Ellis’ suicide attempt, and when she looked up and saw her and Derek’s Post-It wedding note, she decided she had to run. She woke Zola and Bailey up, packed up their stuff, and fled, just like Ellis did with her when they left Seattle. “Where are we going,” Zola asked. “Away, sweetie. We’re going away,” she replied.
Weeks after the funeral, everyone gathered at the house, looking for Meredith. She just left a note that said, “The kids and I are safe.” Alex (Justin Chambers) spearheaded the search, calling Cristina (who hadn’t heard from Mer since the funeral), her dad, and even hospitals looking for her on top of trying to reach Meredith over and over again for months. The only time he heard from his missing friend was on Thanksgiving, when she answered and told him not to call anymore because she and her kids were fine.
Alex’s grieving was for Meredith more than Derek, and he kept everyone together by attempting to host Thanksgiving and Christmas at the house. He and Maggie (Kelly McCreary) also got closer as they searched for Mer.
Callie’s (Sara Ramirez) initial reaction was tough, because she had to hold in the tragic news when she was in surgery with Amelia due to “protocol.” Most of her time was spent with her patient-turned-date, Dan (Kevin Alejandro), who stopped trying to woo her and ended up being a great distraction during the tough time. By Christmas, she had to amputate his leg and then he was fitted for a prosthetic leg. After he walked for the first time, she broke down sobbing because it was Derek’s technology that made the leg possible. “Your brain can tell your leg what to do because it all started because of these badass sensors made by an amazing neurosurgeon who…” she cried, unable to get her words out. “I wouldn’t be here without him. He was a brilliant surgeon. He was a good friend. And he would have loved this.”
Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) showed her grief with anger. When she overheard a doctor saying the “board needs to get off their asses and hire a new neurosurgeon already,” she freaked out. “You think that we need to get off our asses,” she screamed, “we should do you that solid because the loss of our colleague and friend is all about your needs, your schedule? You think we should be sensitive to that? How about you take a minute to think about the person, the talent, the life that we lost. How about you think before you start complaining that Derek Shepherd’s death has been inconvenient for you!”
Owen and Amelia
Even though these two aren’t dating, they are very much connected. Owen (Kevin McKidd) was the one to tell Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) about Derek’s death — and she reacted coldly, saying, “I’ve done this before. I know the drill. Not a big deal” — then he immediately went off to war to lead trauma care for soldiers.
Amelia used jokes to cope, like saying, “If Derek saw this, he would roll over in his grave.” It made everyone, especially Stephanie, very uncomfortable, and she continued using this coping mechanism until she had a meltdown at the hospital. Apparently she could not leave the hospital, even to go to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, because she was so worried one of her patients would die like Derek and the families would hate her. She questioned, “why everyone you give a crap about walks away or is ripped from your world without warning, without reasons. In convenience stores and plane crashes and podunk hospitals with podunk doctors who don’t do what they’re supposed to do, which is save people.”
This is when Owen came back, and Amelia revealed to him that she had a bag of Oxycontin in her pocket and she was deciding whether to take it or not. “Every man I’ve ever loved has died, even my baby,” she told him. He told her to move through the pain and grieve instead of running away from it, realizing he did the same thing by going to war. “We do these things, we run off, we medicate. We do whatever we can to dull the situation, but we have to feel,” Owen told Amelia. And even though she screamed “I can’t do this,” it seemed like they could do it together now.
Jackson and April
Instead of coping with her feelings, April (Sarah Drew) decided to run off too, leaving for what was supposed to be three months helping Owen in the war. But she ended up extending her tour three times, frustrating and upsetting Jackson (Jesse Williams). Their last phone call was on Christmas when she exclaimed, “We’re supposed to have a child. We’re supposed to be celebrating Christmas as a family” before bombs sounded off around her and the call was lost. Jackson was worried, but thankfully she came back to surprise him at the end of the episode.
Richard helped everyone with their grief and took care of them like a father — particularly Amelia. He put everyone in their place, saying that “Meredith Grey is not a missing person” and told them she was gone because she was taught to run by her mother. His coping mechanism was to embrace the love in his life, Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen), but she wouldn’t let him propose. His heart was broken, but she made it up by the end of the episode with an epic proposal at the hospital with flowers and candles and lights. “I love you, Richard Webber. I love you, and I would very much like for you to be my husband. That is, of course, if you would like it too,” she said. His response? “About damn time!”
At first, Bailey (Chandra Wilson) sobbed and couldn’t control herself, but she eventually calmed down. The entire episode centered around her argument with her husband, Ben (Jason George), about wanting to be hooked up to ventilators or not if this happened to them; she just wanted to be unplugged, and he wanted to keep praying for a miracle. There was a funny line where Miranda questioned, “What if I meet Idris Elba?” and asked if she could cheat on her brain dead husband then, and ultimately, Ben caved and gave her a will that stated she could unplug him.
It turned out that Bailey was just bottling in her feelings, because she thought he didn’t love her enough to “hope for a miracle” anymore. “I love you too much … ever since Derek died, I wake up desperate for air having these terrifying dreams something happened to you,” she cried on Valentine’s Day. But Ben eased her fears, joking, “I promise that I will let you die first.”
Meredith, While She’s Gone
Here’s what happened to Meredith: In the subsequent months, from Easter through Christmas, we didn’t see or hear from Meredith except for the time she spoke to Alex. But by Christmas Eve, at least six or seven months since she had been gone, we discovered that she was pregnant and off on a beach with the kids. Sometime after New Year’s Day, Meredith went into labor and started bleeding, so Zola had to call 911. It was just like Ellis’ suicide attempt, all coming full circle. Thankfully, Meredith had a healthy baby girl named Ellis, and her emergency contact Alex came to get her. “I saw her face and I saw him in her. She’s beautiful,” she told Alex in one of the episode’s many tear-jerker moments.
The end of the two-hour episode showed everyone moving on. “Chasing Cars” played again when Meredith caught up with Alex and Maggie, and when Mer got back to the hospital for the first time, she put on Derek’s scrub cap before going into surgery. “Are you ready for this?” Bailey asked her. “I am. All I have to do is begin,” she replied.
Tell Us: Are you over Derek’s death, or did this episode not give you closure?
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