April 23, 2018 09:18 AM

NCIS will always have a special place in Pauley Perrette‘s heart.

The actress, who has played fan favorite forensic scientist Abby Sciuto since the show began in 2003, announced last fall that she will be leaving the procedural following the conclusion of the current 15th season.

Perrette, 49, recently opened up about the decision to CBS News, confessing that she’s “still grieving” as she bids adieu to her beloved character.

“I, like, usually cry in my car every single day when I drive to work,” she said. “And I usually cry on my way home at some point. And then I take a deep breath, and I go, ‘All right,’ you know?”

“It makes me sad to imagine a world without Abby in it,” she continued. “It really makes me sad. … Abby made science cool and attainable for young women. And this television character did more than encourage it. It made it cool. It made it exciting. It made it fun.”

Luckily, Perrette hopes Abby’s impact will live on for years to come: The actress has created a scholarship fund for women hoping to follow in Abby’s footsteps.

“In honor of Abby, and in honor of young women that want to pursue science and math and forensics,” she said.

David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty

Now, Perrette spends much of her free time at home with her pets — and is looking forward to some time out of the spotlight.

“It’s just very dehumanizing,” she said. “I hope I’m not wrong, but I think that I have earned a little bit of time to myself. Just stay home. Go to church.” (Perrette is a regular at Hollywood United Methodist.)

Perrette also revealed that she’s uninterested in pursuing a love life — “Tried it. Not for me. Not at all,” she said — and is “delighted” at her decision.

“Probably the best decision I ever made in my life was the time that it took me to go like, ‘Wait a minute. This is silly. I don’t have to have a boyfriend, or a husband, or a girlfriend, or anything, you know?’ ” she said. “I don’t need any of that. Like, I do whatever I want. I do whatever I want. And I think that is rad!”

Perrette announced her departure from NCIS with a statement on Twitter last October.

“It is true that I am leaving NCIS after this season,” she wrote. “It was a decision made last year. I hope everyone will love and enjoy EVERYTHING ABBY not only for the rest of this season, but for everything she has given all of us for 16 years. All the love, all the laughter, all the inspiration. I love her as much as you do.”

So what’s next for the actress? Well, that remains a mystery.

“It’s not like people aren’t asking,” she said. “I’m being offered a lot. There’s a lot of conversations going on, yeah. And there’s me sittin’ at home on the couch, drinkin’ beer with my dogs. And I’m really good at it!”

NCIS airs Tuesdays (8 p.m.) ET on CBS.

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