Fans of Nashville were rattled by the shocking death of the show’s reigning matriarch, Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton). While the final scenes with the beloved star were emotional to watch, the show’s star Charles Esten says they were just as gut-wrenching to film.

Esten opens up to Taste of Country about shooting those final moments, saying that they knew the day was coming, but were almost in “denial” about the character’s end.

“So then suddenly it’s upon you and there you are, shooting this most difficult of all scenes — and I really mean that, I’ve never shot anything that was anywhere near as hard as that, especially with those girls there with us,” Esten says.

The final moments with Rayna feature Esten's character, Deacon, with Maddie and Daphne (Lennon and Maisy Stella), sitting on Rayna’s hospital bed as she’s unconscious. “There’s a moment where Daphne says she didn’t know what to say and I say, ‘It’s hard to know what to say in these moments.’ And like so often on our show when you’re not sure what to say, there’s a song that knows what to say,” Esten explains.

What follows is a heartbreaking moment when Maddie tearfully begins to sing the show’s signature song, “A Life That’s Good,” with her sister and father following suit. “It didn’t strike me as odd or unusual, it [struck] me as exactly what we would do is sing to her so that her last moments would be hearing the voices and hearing a song that was very pivotal to her life and to our show’s life,” Esten says about the emotional scene. “So it all struck as just so real.”

But surprisingly, this wasn’t the first time the actor handled a sorrowful situation with music. Esten reveals to Taste of Country that when his own father was in his final days, the actor sang to him every day. “My dad loved music, I got my love of country music from my father,” he says, relating the real-life family death with the one he experienced on the show. “When my father was very sick, when he was in hospice at the end, I literally brought my guitar into his room and would play favorite songs to him.”

Nashville Season 5 is on a midseason break until summer of 2017.

How Did Rayna Die? And Why?