Grey's Anatomy Spoilers: Farewell to Derek?!?

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Earlier this week, ABC released a slew of photos for Grey's Anatomy Season 11 Episode 9, the 2015 opener titled "Where Do We Go From Here."

Noticeably absent from this picture gallery? Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd.

And Shonda Rhimes says that's something fans will need to get used to.

Derek, In Thought - Grey's Anatomy Season 11 Episode 7

“It’s highly possible that we might not see Derek for a while,” Rhimes tells Entertainment Weekly, confirming that Dempsey is not gone for good or anything, but...

“There will be a time when you see him again, yes, but it’s probable that you won’t see Derek for a while."

When we last saw Derek and Meredith, the latter was encouraging the former to take his position in the nation’s capital, as the action cut between that difficult exchange and the breakup long ago of Ellis Grey and Richard Webber.

“I love the echoes of her mother that are in there and what that means for her," Rhimes says.

"I love the idea that this could possibly mean that for the first time in her life at the hospital, she has neither Cristina nor Derek, and therefore is essentially alone and how she’s going to cope with that. It’s going to be very interesting for her.”

And viewers will start to see how Meredith reacts when Grey's Anatomy Season 11 returns with new episodes on Thursday, January 29 at 8/7c on ABC.

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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Grey's Anatomy Season 11 Episode 9 Quotes

I need a person who is in it with me and believes in that.

Meredith

You're a really good mom. You've been riding me all day, making sure I don't screw up. Crap, you've been doing it all these years. It sucks. It's annoying, but it's nice.

Alex