The Prichett Family was forced to face a tough reality of life on Modern Family Wednesday night (October 24) when, as promised, one of the show's beloved characters died. And when the dust had settled, it was DeDe (Shelley Long), the ex-wife of Jay (Ed O’Neill), and mother to Claire (Julie Bowen) and Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) who'd kicked the bucket peacefully in her sleep...

...and, strangely, as a part of the show's typically jocular, annual Halloween episode.

So why did DeDe go, and what was the show hoping to achieve with the huge shift?

Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan told Entertainment Weekly that the death was meant to force the typically sunny family to contend with a painful and realistic part of life.

"We’re just trying to, at this point, put our characters through something new and interesting and challenging for us," Levitan said. "That is one of the things that make this complicated and interesting. Whenever people have any kind of a complicated relationship with somebody, and then they die, it brings up a lot of things. So when we were talking at the beginning of the season about some different places to go, this idea came up, and we liked it. There will be, in fact, another episode that will deal with ramifications of this."

Levitan added that the choice to kill Dede, specifically, was carefully considered.

"This seemed like the logical choice because it so directly affects three of our main characters," he said. "It was also just a very nice send-off to the character and to Shelley Long, so it seemed like the thing to do. The idea, though, for setting it on Halloween came about because, well, I’ve always had a love for people going through something that is unexpectedly serious while in a silly costume. I’ve always just loved that sort of thing. We always do Halloween shows, and they’re a big part of this year’s series, so we thought, 'Well, let’s try to do something that’s wildly different this Halloween.' And since it is, strangely enough, a holiday that deals with so many themes of death and things that are scary and all that, it seemed in a strange way appropriate."

What did you make of DeDe's death? Share your thoughts in the comments.