MerDer shippers will take a huge blow to the heart when “Grey’s Anatomy” returns from its winter hiatus on Thursday, Jan. 29. According to reports, the hit ABC series will kick off on a dark note as Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek (Patrick Dempsey) prepare for yet another obstacle in their ever-dramatic relationship.

While it’s true that episode 9, “Where Do We Go From Here,” will begin its story line in Seattle, it won’t be long before fans are forced to watch Derek pack his bags for Washington D.C. in pursuit of his new gig with the Obama administration.

Shonda Rhimes, mastermind behind the medical drama, broke the bad news to fans during an interview with TVLine, teasing that they should anticipate a rocky, long distance relationship between MerDer in the second half of Season 11. “It’s highly possible that we might not see Derek for a while,” Rhimes revealed, admitting that “Grey’s Anatomy” won’t be taking place in both Seattle and D.C. “There will be a time when you see him again, yes, but it’s probable that you won’t see Derek for a while.”

Until Derek does return from his D.C. duties, Meredith will have to face the world and Grey Sloan Memorial hospital alone. “I love the idea that this could possibly mean that for the first time in her life at the hospital, she has neither Cristina (Sandra Oh) nor Derek, and therefore is essentially alone and how she’s going to cope with that. It’s going to be very interesting for her,” Rhimes dished.

However, Meredith does have one person she’ll be able to lean on when the series returns – Cristina’s replacement, Alex (Justin Chambers). When Cristina left for Switzerland, Meredith dubbed Alex as her newest “person.” And so far, he’s done a swimmingly job at catering to Mer’s every best friend whim – including emotional talks in the shower.

The only question remains is how will Alex cope with his responsibilities as Meredith’s “person” when he realizes that he’s all she has left? "It comes off somewhat begrudgingly, but underneath it all, I think he's really happy to have that connection," Chambers admitted to TV Guide.

But according to reports, there will be one person who won’t be too thrilled of Meredith and Alex’s growing bond. Jo (Camilla Luddington) will reportedly have a hard time wrapping her head around the intimate relationship her boyfriend has with Meredith. "I guess you could call it an emotional affair in a sense," Chambers told TV Guide. "It has come between [Alex and Jo]."

In the winter finale of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Jo confronted Alex about his intense friendship with Derek’s wife, admitting that she wasn't comfortable with the thought of Meredith in her bed or seeing Alex naked in the shower. But Alex tried to calm her nerves, stating that being in bed with her verse Mer is very different.

How do you think Jo will respond to Alex and Meredith’s evolving friendship when “Grey’s Anatomy” returns? Do you think this could lead to a breakup? Sound off in the comments section below and don’t forget to tune in to “Grey’s Anatomy” when Season 11, episode 9 airs Thursday, Jan. 29, at 8 p.m. EST.