Over the past four seasons, “Vampire Diaries” fans have said goodbye to numerous characters – Vicki, Aunt Jenna, Mr. and Mrs. Lockwood, Lexi, Mr. Forbes, Alaric, Jeremy and many more. In a show about vampires and other supernatural beings, deaths are to be expected. But that doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to the characters – or in executive producer Julie Plec’s case, the cast. While in Austin, Texas, for the ATX Television Festival at the beginning of June, Plec dished in a Q&A that a couple of deaths hit her real hard.

“We believe very much that death needs to have real stakes,” Plec explained of killing characters off. “When we started knocking people off one-by-one in the first couple seasons, we definitely knew there would be opportunities in flashbacks and that sort of thing to revisit the characters.”

According to the executive producer, the creation of the ghost story line and the “idea of the other side” gave “Vampire Diaries” writers a little more wiggle room with bringing characters back. It wasn’t an easy decision, though. Plec explained that it turned into a big debate.

“If anyone can come back at any time, then you’re really diminishing the power of the stakes,” she continued. “On the flip side of that, losing a beloved character in a TV show you feel a grief. There’s a really powerful grief that comes attached to that. Sometimes I think we make the decision that it’s kind of okay to break a rule and diminish the stakes after the fact. The joy of seeing this person again is equally as powerful as having lost them.”

So, which characters were the most difficult for Plec to say goodbye to? She named three.

Vicki Donovan (Kayla Ewell)

Vicki Donovan was the first regular character killed off “The Vampire Diaries.” Besides it being difficult for that reason, Plec dished that it was also difficult because actress Kayla Ewell is “such a special person.”

“She was kind of team leader on the set,” Plec explained. “Everybody loved her. She was everyone’s best friend – guys, girls. She’s just a tremendous person.”

Aunt Jenna (Sara Canning)

“I flew to Atlanta so I could tell her,” said Plec of Sara Canning’s demise as Aunt Jenna. “And she walked into my office and I was like ‘Okay, I’m going to rip the band aid off and this is really awful, but Jenna’s dying.’ And then I started to cry.”

According to Plec, despite how bad she felt about killing off Jenna it was something that had to be done for Elena to be able to go on this journey. The good news is that she promised that her death would be “epic” – and it was!

Alaric Saltzman (Matt Davis)

The decision to kill off Alaric was difficult for Julie Plec as a fan and a friend. “That character was my favorite,” she continued in the ATX Q&A. “I loved Alaric, I still love Alaric. It felt like a very, very powerful loss both for the show and for the story, and knowing that Damon wouldn’t have his buddy and that Elena and Jeremy wouldn’t have their guardian.”

What do you think was the most powerful death on “The Vampire Diaries?” Let us know in the comments section.