This season of Grey’s Anatomy is going to be different. The big change is — as if you could possibly forget — the fact that Patrick Dempsey is gone. At the end of season 11, Derek Shepherd was hit by a truck and died shortly after at the hospital, with Meredith Grey right by his side. Season 12 will be McDreamy-less, and that’s something we’re still getting used to. Meredith is still getting used to it, too, but that’s not the point of the show. The woman behind Mer, Ellen Pompeo, is here to remind us that the show can continue on without him. And it will.

Entertainment Weekly’s cover story for this week is all about Shonda Rhimes and her TV shows, including Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, and of course, Grey’s Anatomy. Following Derek’s death there was HUGE fan out cry that he was gone. But, the show was never about Derek. It’s always been about Meredith, and for a long time it was about Meredith’s life with Derek.

“We’re so conditioned to believe that [a fairy tale ending] is the definition of happiness, that nobody stops to think that might not be what defines us,” Rhimes explains about going forward post-Derek. “Meredith knew that Derek did not define her.”

Referencing Rhimes’ other shows, Pompeo mentions that, “[HTGAWM‘s] Annalise Keating carries the show, [Scandal‘s] Olivia Pope carries the show. But somehow, Meredith Grey needs someone. Why can’t I just be the lead of the show the way Annalise and Olivia can? Why can’t I be on that poster by myself?”

She continues, “All of a sudden, Patrick [Dempsey] leaves, and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, Meredith’s gonna get killed with Alzheimer’s!’ The show couldn’t possibly go on without the man!”

Rhimes is quick to echo that statement, explaining that Meredith has been “90 percent of every minute” of Grey’s Anatomy, not Derek. As for the central relationship of the show, Rhimes also believes that the “Olivia/Fitz romance” was Meredith and Christina. Not Meredith and Derek. The show’s been a story about strong females, and strong female friendships. There just happened to be a love story woven in there, too. Now that it’s gone, some things will change — but Meredith’s still the focal point. As BFF Christina once told her, Derek is not “the sun,” Meredith is.

So stop worrying about Season 12 being different unable to carry on without Derek. If we’ve learned anything about Meredith over the last 11 seasons, it’s that she’s a fighter and she’s going to keep moving forward. She’s the sun, after all.

(Image via ABC.)