"Grey's Anatomy" star Ellen Pompeo spoke publicly on Monday for the first time about the startling death of her character's husband, played by departing co-star Patrick Dempsey, in last week's episode.

"I have always said what keeps me going is the fans," tweeted Pompeo, 45, who plays Dr. Meredith Grey on ABC's long-running medical drama. 'There are so many people out there who have suffered tremendous loss and tragedy. Husbands and wives of soldiers, victims of senseless violence and parents who have lost children. People who get up each day and do what feels like is the impossible. So it is for these people and in the spirit of resilience I am honored and excited to tell the story of how Meredith goes on in the face of what feels like the impossible."

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In the episode, "How to Save a Life," written by series creator Shonda Rhimes, Dr. Derek Shepherd, Grey's husband and the father of their two children, is run into by a tractor trailer after stopping at an auto accident scene and tending to the injured. He is transported to a hospital with poorly trained emergency room staff, and succumbs to brain death. Grey signs a "do not resuscitate" form and allows his life support to be shut off.

Grey and her family and colleagues confront Shepherd's death in Thursday's two-hour episode, "She's Leaving Home."

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, conducted after it became known he was leaving the show but before the episode aired, Dempsey, 49, said his character's departure "was just a natural progression, the way the story was unfolding, the way everything was unfolding in a very organic way."