updated 12/12/2008 AT 1:00 PM ET
•originally published 12/12/2008 AT 2:15 PM ET
Shania Twain is enjoying a festive holiday season – a shopping spree in New York City and a sunny getaway to Florida – thanks to a group of friends, including Frédéric Thiébaud.
Spending time with Thiébaud, the ex-husband of Twain’s former best friend who some sources say broke up Shania’s marriage to Robert “Mutt” Lange, is having a positive effect in the country star, a friend tells PEOPLE.
“She’s finally doing things she always wanted to do, emotionally freeing things,” says the pal. “She’s playing tennis four times a week, sky-diving for the first time.”
Twain, who made a triumphant return to the CMA Awards last month, is also generating lots of material that could potentially be used for a new album. “She’s writing her ass off!” says the source.
While Twain, 43, and Thiébaud, 38, are both working through the end of their own marriages, sharing time among their friends is ultimately helping her heal, says the pal.
“I think she’s starting to finally come out of it and it’s awesome to watch.”
And the trip with her pals to New York and Florida didn’t hurt, either: “She had the best time ever,” says the source.
Reporting by JULIE DAM and ALEXIS CHIU
Shania shocked by husband’s affair with her close friend
1998: Read Shania’s rag to riches story
Read about more country music stars