Performing at a corporate party on Dec. 5 in Cincinnati—her estranged husband Nick Lachey's hometown—Jessica Simpson talked a lot about her family and even got choked up dedicating a song to her late grandmother. But while she bantered with the audience, "no one asked about Nick," says Celeste Hensley, a guest, "and she didn't talk about him."

Two weeks into their split, Simpson, 25, and Lachey, 32, were both moving on with their lives—but no one said it was going to be easy. Slated to make her first post-breakup red carpet appearance at VH1's Big in '05 Awards Dec. 3, "she didn't want to go," says a source close to Simpson. "She was nervous. Her friends had to convince her she had done nothing wrong and to hold her head high. That night was really hard for her." Arriving last and departing immediately after accepting the Big Stylin' award (given to the celebrity whose personal style defined the year), Simpson spent the rest of the weekend with the same tight group who have been comforting her since the breakup: her mom, Tina, with whom she's now living in Los Angeles; her assistant and best friend CaCee Cobb, for whom she hosted a birthday dinner Saturday night; and her hairstylist Ken Pavés, with whom she indulged in some retail therapy on Sunday—$20,000 worth. "The person who is going to benefit most from the separation," says a source close to Simpson, "is Mr. Louis Vuitton."

For his part, Lachey has kept his activities low-key, meeting friends for a quiet dinner at the Palm Dec. 2 and then attending the USC-UCLA football game the following day. At the game, "he was having a good time, but I guess he looked a little preoccupied," says an onlooker. "He kept checking his Sidekick." In the days after the split, they called each other several times a day, but more recently, "they've talked less and less," says the source close to Jessica. "I think they both realize this is probably the right move." Still, talk of divorce is premature. Simpson's rep Rob Shuter says that contrary to reports, she has not hired a divorce lawyer. Says a source close to Lachey: "They are feeling their way through this."