Sarah Drew’s departure from Grey’s Anatomy completely shocked fans of the franchise, who fell in love with her portrayal of Dr. April Kepner. The character’s exit from the series was surprising, as the beloved actress found her time on the show to be rather rewarding.

“I loved it there. It was a beautiful time and experience, so I wouldn’t have gone,” Sarah, 43, said during an episode of Jana Kramer’s “Whine Down” podcast on Monday, November 27.

It was decided by producers that both Sarah and costar Jessica Capshaw, who played Dr. Arizona Robbins, would be written out of the show in 2018. At the time, it was made clear by showrunner Krista Vernoff that the decision was purely creative. Still, fans were completely outraged that two favorites were getting the boot together.

“Nobody understood it,” Sarah continued about her exit from the medical drama. “It was so confusing, which is why I say that it was so painful but piercingly joyful because I had another couple [of] weeks still on the show after knowing that I was going, and the outpouring of the love from the fans.”

Leaving Grey’s Anatomy after nine years was difficult for the TV star, but she was touched by the heartwarming goodbye she received from her costars and crew members.

“They put together these boxes for us on our last day. Everybody had written a letter to us, and I was having crew members come up to me to be like, ‘There was this one moment, five years ago, when we had this conversation,’” Sarah reflected. “‘It meant so much to me and I want to say thank you before you go.’ And if I had stayed on the show forever and I’d left when everybody else did, I would not have experienced the visceral love bomb that was the experience.”

Sarah Drew stands to the side in a red jumpsuit
Amanda Edwards/WireImage

Show creator Shonda Rhimes and executive producer Betsy Beers both called Sarah to reflect on her incredible time on the show ahead of her next chapter.

“I was so overcome with how loved I was on that set that all I could do was weep,” the Everwood alum recalled. “I was literally just weeping on the phone with joy, like, thanking them for the opportunity they’d given me to be a part of this family and be a part of this legacy. And that’s truly the only thing I was feeling. I was overcome [with emotion].”

In the years following her departure from Grey’s Anatomy, Sarah appeared in several Hallmark films, including Christmas in Vienna, One Summer and Guiding Emily. The New York native was brought back to reprise her role as Dr. Kepner in season 17 and season 18 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.