(CNN) — We've winced with "Grey's Anatomy's" past departures, but this one really hurts.
Shonda Rhimes has confirmed that Sandra Oh, the actress who's embodied Dr. Cristina Yang on ABC's endless medical drama since its 2005 debut, is leaving the series at the end of its 10th season.
This exit, Rhimes says, feels different.
The showrunner told The Hollywood Reporter that she knew Oh's exit, announced Tuesday, was on the way, but that doesn't make it any easier.
"For a long time the show has essentially been a love story between (Ellen Pompeo's) Meredith and Cristina more than anything else," Rhimes said. "Meredith, Cristina and (Justin Chambers') Alex, for me, were always very important characters. ... (T)his feels different. We've been doing this for 10 years I've known these people longer than I've known some members of my family who married in. It's a different feeling and a different emotion. This is the first one of the five that's leaving where nobody wants them to leave; it's that feeling."
Oh has said that she feels "ready to let (Cristina) go," and is in a place where she thinks she's given the character all she can creatively.
“It’s been a great privilege to play the character of Cristina Yang ... and I am both sad and excited to see where this, her final season will take her,” the actress said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly. “It was an emotional and deeply creative decision for me and I feel fully supported by Shonda and the writers. It’s so rare in an actor’s life to be able to explore and grow a character so fully, so completely. I am profoundly grateful to everyone at GA for the opportunity.”
While Rhimes knows how Cristina Yang's story will conclude, she's being as tight-lipped as ever -- even in regards to how this will affect Kevin McKidd's Owen or Pompeo's Meredith, and their central relationships with the character.
Instead, Rhimes has assured "Grey's" fans that her team has "a story that we want to tell and we want to tell it really well, and that story isn't about her leaving the show as much as it is Cristina Yang's growth as a person and as a surgeon."