Shonda Rhimes found Ellen Pompeo's 'Grey's Anatomy' exit to be a "heartbreaking moment".
The 53-year-old actress left the long-running medical drama in February, and although Shonda was disappointed to see her leave the show, she insists the "door's always open".
Shonda, 53 - who created the hit TV show - told E! News: "Having Ellen leave was heartbreaking for everybody, but also knowing that she could come back anytime was also important for me."
Shonda and Ellen discussed the issue at length before the actress took the decision to leave the show.
The screenwriter shared: "Ellen's an amazing person and she and I have been having conversations the whole time, discussing when it was time and what it was feeling like.
"We've always been having those discussions because I've always wanted her to be excited and invested and enjoying herself as much as she was at the beginning."
Shonda is happy that Ellen is now able to "explore new creative things".
However, she'd still love her to reprise the role of Dr. Meredith Grey at some point in the future.
She said: "It was a little of a heartbreaking moment, but it was also a moment - for me - that she's not gone because she's coming back. I don't think of her as gone from the show, she's still doing the voiceovers, she's still there."
'Grey's Anatomy' premiered in 2005 and Shonda insists it isn't likely to stop anytime soon.
Speaking about her long-term plans, she explained: "I might be a very old lady by the time we reach it's last season because it doesn't seem to be stopping, which is wonderful and I feel the world really belongs to the fans and the fans have been really clear about what they want."