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Grey's Anatomy Fans Are Dreading Meredith's Looming Exit After Zola's Anxiety Drops Hints In Season 19, Episode 4

The imminent exit of Ellen Pompeo and her character of Dr. Meredith Grey have loomed large over the start of "Grey's Anatomy" Season 19, and a new plot development in Episode 4 certainly isn't helping matters.

Fans have been worried about Meredith's exit from "Grey's Anatomy" ever since it was reported that Pompeo would be scaling back her role on the show starting with Season 19 (via TV Line). Pompeo has led a whopping 18 seasons of the show, having stuck around with it since it started in 2005. This time around, however, she's set to be in less than half of the total episodes of the season.

Between her myriad duties running the Grey-Sloan Memorial hospital and introducing a fresh slate of new interns to the historic workspace, it hasn't been made immediately clear what in-universe reason precipitates Meredith's sudden absence. However, a certain plot thread in Season 19, Episode 4 involving the surgeon's super-smart daughter Zola (Aniela Gumbs) and her anxiety attacks has begun to paint a clearer picture in fans' minds with regard to how everything is likely to go down.

Fans don't want Meredith to move away

Throughout the beginning of "Grey's Anatomy" Season 19, Zola finds herself struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. Episode 4 sees things reach a tipping point, as Meredith sets her eye on finding a better, more fitting school for the gifted Zola, even going so far as to suggest that they look outside of Seattle.

Of course, Meredith's suggestion that they could leave the Seattle area sent alarm bells ringing throughout the minds of many fans. "Meredith is probably going to go off with Zola to somewhere else with a school for super geniuses," @onlyforgreys69 tweeted. "I was really hoping for more Zola but it doesn't look like that's going to happen."

With Meredith's exit seemingly coming into focus, some are already bracing themselves for how the show is going to feel without regular appearances from its longtime lead. "I don't want Meredith to leave," @ibegyourpart0n tweeted. "Gonna feel so strange without her."

While Meredith may indeed be departing to care for her family, it's not all bad news. As Pompeo told Deadline, she will continue to narrate each episode of the series and remain onboard in her role of executive producer. She also remains open to future appearances as Meredith past Season 19. "It's my heart and soul," the actress said. "I'll never truly be gone as long as that show is on the air."

As additional consolation, fans should expect several surprise classic character visits during "Grey's Anatomy" Season 19.