An insider exclusively tells OK! that after Dempsey's character was killed off in a car crash in 2015, he felt "zero sense of closure," especially considering he'd been with the series for 11 seasons.
"It always bugged him that there was no celebration or well wishes after that final scene," says the insider. "He grabbed his stuff and left without so much as a pat on the back. It stung."
The chance to reboot his storyline in star Ellen Pompeo's dream sequence earlier this month "filled the void left by the shocking way their characters were torn apart," says the insider.
Dempsey, 54, was also thrilled to reconnect with the crew. "It was such a warm atmosphere," adds the insider. "Everyone loved catching up."
The cameo came at just the right time. The insider says that when Dempsey left the show, his marriage to wife Jillian was falling apart — but trading his long on-set hours for time with his family helped them reconcile by the following year.
Now that the actor's "set things right" at home, says the insider, "he realized he missed the show. And there are plans to bring him back for more episodes. The fans' pulses are racing — and he's all for it."
On the Thursday, November 12, episode fans got to see Meredith (Pompeo) and Derek (Dempsey) — who died years ago — reunite on the beach. Meredith was dreaming as she was found unconscious in a parking lot, and during the last few minutes, she spun around and saw him.
The reunion was kind of a spur of the moment decision. “I had known that Krista Vernoff the screenwriter wanted to do a beach thing, and I was at the beach. Patrick and I weren’t hiking on the beach, but we were hiking in Malibu, which, you can see the beach. And the idea just struck me so I just said to him, would you ever consider coming and being a part of the storytelling this season?” she told Deadline. “I know that Patrick has his foundation in Maine where he helps cancer patients and cancer survivors, and that’s a huge effort of his, and I know that it’s important to him, also, to give people hope, and give people joy, and we wanted to bring something to this moment.”
“We had a ball filming it,” the actress said. “It’s like riding a bike. We just have a chemistry and a dynamic that’s always served us well, and I think we have a genuine affection for each other,” she gushed. “It was very healing to come back, and know that we’re doing something good, putting out a positive story, a healing story, going to make people smile.”