Ellen Pompeo Hints at 'Grey's Anatomy' Exit After 19 Seasons: 'I'll Be Back to Visit'

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Is Ellen Pompeo hinting that her time on Grey's Anatomy is nearing the end? 

The longtime star of ABC's hit medical drama, who's played Meredith Grey since the series debut in 2005, took to Instagram on Thursday with a new post seemingly alluding to her limited season 19 role potentially becoming more permanent. It was previously announced that Pompeo would appear in only eight episodes this season while continuing to provide voiceover narration and fulfilling her executive producer duties.

"I am eternally grateful and humbled by the love and support you have all shown me, Meredith GREY and the show for 19 seasons!" Pompeo wrote in the Instagram caption, alongside a photo with a light-up sign in the background reading, "All you need is love." 

"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!!" the 52-year-old actress continued, expressing gratitude for longtime Grey's fans. "I love you madly and appreciate you right back."

Pompeo promised that while her send-off episode, which will officially come in the Feb. 23 winter premiere, is still a few months away, she will be back to see the doctors at Grey Sloan. 

"This isn’t your first time on the rollercoaster… you know the show must go on and I’ll definitely be back to visit," she assured fans, signing off the post "with a lot of love and immense gratitude." 

Grey's creator Shonda Rhimes also shared a sweet message on Instagram, thanking Pompeo for 19 seasons as Meredith Grey.

"What a wild ride these past 19 seasons have been. None of it could have been possible without the incomparable @ellenpompeo, the one and only Meredith Grey," Rhimes wrote, alongside a series of photos of the two of them over the years at various events. "In true #greysanatomy fashion…this isn’t a goodbye, it’s a see ya later! Can’t wait to see what’s in store for Ellen, Meredith and Grey Sloan Memorial."

Pompeo's (and Meredith's) farewell marks her seventh season 19 episode, and she is expected to return once more before the season is over with the possibility for future visits down the line. As Grey's viewers know, Meredith made the decision to relocate to Boston for a new job at the Catherine Fox Foundation and enroll Zola in a school more suited to her needs. Her iconic family home also burned down in a devastating fire, leaving nothing salvageable except the Post-it note with Meredith and Derek's vows.

Though it remains unclear what Pompeo's involvement would be in front or behind the camera if Grey's gets picked up for season 20, Pompeo's Instagram post on Thursday seemingly suggests that her time in front of the camera as Meredith is winding down for good.

Back in September, Pompeo opened up to ET about her decision to step away from Grey's and take on a new Hulu drama about orphans.

"It's still Grey's, she's still there in spirit and that's the house that Grey built, so she's always there," Pompeo said at the time. "She just has to step away for a little bit to do a Hulu show. It's a great company to work for and I'm really, really lucky that they've given me the opportunity to do both, and so I had to take it."

A few months earlier, Pompeo hinted at a Grey's reinvention as she looked ahead to her future beyond the show. 

"Trying to reinvent the show and continually trying to reinvent the show is the challenge at this point, and listen, the show speaks to a lot of people, and the young people love the show," she told ET in May. "It's inspired so many generations of healthcare workers, so, I think for the young people, it's a really good piece of content and we're going to try to keep it going for the young people, not necessarily with me, but keep it going beyond me."

Grey's Anatomy returns Thursday, Feb. 23 on ABC.

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