Grey's Anatomy Showrunner Bids Justin Chambers' Character an 'Impossible Goodbye'

Goodbye once and for all, Alex Karev.

Fans bid a final farewell to the veteran doctor on Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday night. And in honor of his official exit, showrunner Krista Vernoff issued an emotional statement about Justin Chambers‘ beloved character’s “impact “on the show.

“It is nearly impossible to say goodbye to Alex Karev,” Vernoff said. “That is as true for me and for all of the writers at Grey’s Anatomy as it is for the fans. We have loved writing Alex. And we have loved watching Justin Chambers’ nuanced portrayal of him.”

She continued: “For 16 seasons, 16 years, we have grown up alongside Alex Karev. We have been frustrated by his limitations and we have been inspired by his growth and we have come to love him deeply and to think of him as one of our very best friends. We will miss him terribly. And we will always be grateful for his impact, on our show, on our hearts, on our fans, on the world.”

On Thursday night’s episode, Alex left Grey Sloan Memorial, his wife Jo (Camilla Luddington),and his home for good.

In four separate letters to wife Jo, Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.), Alex explained — amid flashbacks from across the past 16 seasons — the reason for his sudden departure: He’s moved to Kansas to be with his ex-wife, Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), and their 5-year-old twins.

ABC confirmed to PEOPLE in January that Chambers, 49, was not returning to the franchise after 16 seasons on the show.

RELATED: How Grey’s Addressed Dr. Alex Karev’s Absence in Midseason Premiere After Justin Chambers’ Exit

“There’s no good time to say goodbye to a show and character that’s defined so much of my life for the past 15 years,” Chambers said in a statement to PEOPLE. “For some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time.”

He added, “As I move on from Grey’s Anatomy, I want to thank the ABC family, Shonda Rimes, original cast members Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens, and the rest of the amazing cast and crew, both past and present, and, of course, the fans for an extraordinary ride.”

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